Yesterday, the Trump administration released a $4.8 trillion budget proposal for the 2021 fiscal year. While the proposal is nothing more than just that — a proposal —and Congress ultimately sets the budget for every fiscal year, the document provides a look at the main concerns of the president and his administration.
The budget features draconian cuts and the consolidation of many essential federal funding programs. There are massive cuts to non-defense discretionary spending (where almost all of the budget for kids, families, and social programs comes from), representing a $1.5 trillion funding loss over the next decade. The budget provides a sense of the priorities of the Trump administration, none of which have to do with the health, safety, and wellbeing of families.
Of course, not all of the cuts have to do directly with popular welfare programs for families. One proposal is to cut a forest research program that increases resilience to natural disasters; another is to cut the Department of Agriculture’s federal land acquisition fund, inhibiting their ability to purchase more lands for federal use. Another proposed cut includes gutting the EPA’s budget by 26.5 percent in a single year. The new budget does, however, allocate $250 million for Everglades restoration.
But many of the Trump Administration’s main proposals will harm families. They plan to cut the budget of Health and Human Services (HHS) by nine percent. HHS oversees the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the agency that is responsible for limiting disease outbreaks and providing essential information and research on the spread of contagious diseases. In just two years, Trump has attempted to cut the budget of the CDC by $100 million, and disbanded the United States’ global health emergency group, which would protect the United States against global deadly diseases. To cut this budget in general seems shortsighted; to cut it at a time when fears of a coronavirus pandemic grow every day seems downright wrong.
Trump would also cut the Interior Department by 13.4 percent, the Housing and Urban Development department by 15.2 percent, the State Department (which still has many vacant positions despite the fact that Trump took office almost four years ago) and the U.S. Agency for International Development by 22 percent.
But perhaps the most morally dubious cuts are proposed for education and family programs. The Education Department, the funding of which is almost exclusively annually appropriated in the federal budget, will be cut by eight percent. Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), would face cuts of more than $920 billion over the next decade. This accounts for the majority of the cuts the budget proposes. Meanwhile, CHIP, which provides health insurance for about 10 million American kids, is a beloved piece of bi-partisan legislature.
The budget would also cut Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) by $21 billion over the next decade, with $6 billion alone coming out of the TANF Contingency Fund in order to gut it completely. TANF, a block grant program, gives states a set amount of money from the federal government yearly to help families through TANF and no more. Because of the way states balance their budget, block grant programs can be particularly vulnerable in hard times, which is why the government set up the TANF Contingency Fund to provide extra funding to states going through economic hardship.
There are also proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Were this budget to pass, SNAP would be cut by $182 billion over the next decade. The budget also proposes moving to a food package program, like a delivered box of foods, rather than electronic benefits where people can go to the store and buy the food they want. There is no evidence to suggest that moving to a box program would help families eat healthier. In fact, numbers suggest that the implementation of moving to a box delivery program would be complicated, and costly for states, who would have to figure out the rollout of the program on their own. It’s also not a feasible program for families who experience homelessness or housing instability, as the boxes couldn’t be delivered to a permanent address.
The proposal also plans to cut $1.7 billion over the next decade for school lunches and eliminates a handful of education programs. Per the budget document, the authors write that they plan to “combine 29 Federal elementary and secondary education programs into a single block grant program that would empower States and districts to decide how to best use Federal funds to meet the needs of their students.” This sounds nice, but it really means that states can use funds however they please. For example, a program that would help homeless kids could end up becoming funding for workshops for parents to learn personal fiscal responsibility.
Some cut programs include federal magnet school funding, cutting student support and academic enrichment grants, and gutting rural education funding. These plans, including Title I funding and the McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program, would be folded into the above-mentioned block grant program, which leaves both programs vulnerable to cuts in the future and could alter where the funding is spent.
The Trump administration wants to limit immigrant taxpayer access to the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Care Tax Credit. They also plan to eliminate the $3.7 billion Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps poor families pay energy bills. Children are a quarter of LIHEAP recipients. Trump also plans to cut the Social Services Block Grant, a $1.7 billion program which funds child care, child abuse prevention, adoption assistance, and more. States use these funds to boost their welfare coffers. The administration also plans to eliminate the Legal Services Corporation, which helps families pay for legal assistance when they are facing eviction, among other services.
The proposed budget will also institute minimum rent requirements and work requirements to access affordable housing assistance, while also cutting funding for the programs themselves. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, which largely help parents with disabled kids by providing benefits on a sliding scale, would also be cut. The new funding model would allow parents of one disabled child to have the maximum amount of benefits, but would reduce the cash benefit for each additional kid who is eligible. This would cut the budget by $8.1 billion over 10 years and $750 million in the fiscal year of 2021 alone.
There is one place that Trump did decide to increase spending, however: the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He also wants to increase the NASA budget by 12 percent so that the Space Force can finally fly to Mars. Yeah, the concerns are clear.