Categorized | Commentary, Massachusetts

Trump Budget: A “Great” Hole In Economic Security

The Trump budget would reduce assistance for low-income Americans by nearly $1 trillion over 10 years, over half of which would come from Medicaid alone.

By Al Norman

Rich people don’t need much financially from the federal government. But at the other end of the economic ladder, government can often play a critical role in protecting the well being of citizens.

For this reason, it is not surprising that most of the people who are hurt when the federal government cuts its spending are low-income people. President Trump’s 2018 budget released in late May brings bad news for millions of people living on a limited income.

According to the report, Insecurity in the States 2016, by the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston, 61 percent of residents age 65 and older living alone in Massachusetts have incomes below the level needed to meet their basic living expenses without going into debt. Massachusetts ranks second in the nation for the percentage of elders living in economic insecurity — behind only Mississippi.

President Trump’s budget eliminates or slashes funding for a number of key safety net programs that help elders living in economic insecurity:

💲 The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The president eliminates funding for fuel assistance, a reduction of $3.9 billion that helps low-income households and families, including many older adults, with heating and energy bills throughout the year. Especially critical in New England winters.

💲 Medicaid and Food Stamps. The president proposes massive cuts to Medicaid, food stamps and income assistance programs for low-income Americans. The Trump budget would reduce assistance for low-income Americans by nearly $1 trillion over 10 years, over half of which would come from Medicaid alone.

The Trump plan would allow states to block grant the Medicaid program for all eligibility categories — including for older adults and people with disabilities who make up the bulk of Medicaid spending.

The Administration estimates these reforms would result in a $610 billion reduction in Medicaid spending over 10 years on top of the $840 billion cut assumed in the American Health Care Act. The food stamp program (SNAP) supports 4.8 million adults age 60 and over every year, but only reaches three out of five seniors who qualify for this support. The Trump budget proposal would cut SNAP by 25 percent, or $193 billion over 10 years.

💲 State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). The president’s budget zeroes-out the $52.1 million for the SHINE (Serving the Health Insurance Needs of Everyone) program, which provided 76,000 Massachusetts seniors last year with free health insurance counseling for Medicare and Medicaid needs. SHINE is a cost-effective, volunteer-driven counseling service that is the only source of counseling that is not tied to insurance providers.

💲 Senior Jobs. The president eliminates the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), the only workforce development program that specifically targets older adults in or near poverty, and the Senior Corps programs (RSVP, Foster Grandparents and Senior Companion).

Many of these jobs supplement workforce needs at local community-based organizations serving seniors.

It’s hard to see how any of the president’s cuts make America great again. They will instead create a “great” hole in the nation’s safety net that helps poor seniors pay their household bills and stay above water. Congress should ignore the president’s budget, and give us a plan that helps feed the poor, heats their homes, and provides them with basic health and long term care supports.

That would be a truly “great” budget.

Al Norman is the Executive Director of Mass Home Care. He can be reached at info@masshomecare.org, or at 978-502-3794.

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