It’s Budget Season in Washington; So Far These Are the Five Worst Things for People With Disabilities
By Annie Acosta, Director of Fiscal and Family Support Policy
The President’s proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget released last month would make unprecedented cuts to public education, health, transportation, housing, and countless other effective federal programs. These massive cuts would affect most Americans in one form or another, and would be particularly devastating to people with disabilities and their families. The budget is titled “The New Foundation for American Greatness” – but the reality couldn’t be more different. Here are five reasons the President’s proposed budget is anything but great for people with disabilities.
- More Cuts to Medicaid
Under the President’s proposed budget, Medicaid, the primary health insurance and long term services and supports program for people with disabilities, would lose $610 billion over 10 years (on top of the over $830 billion in cuts in the American Health Care Act passed by the House of Representatives in March). The combined cuts roughly halve the program’s federal budget by 2027. Medicaid’s “optional” services, expected to take the brunt of such a drastic cut, include prescription drugs, physical therapy, and all home and community based services under state plan and “waiver” programs. Medicaid, including home and community based services, makes it possible for millions of people with disabilities to survive and to live and work in the community.
- Breaks the Promise on Social Security
Despite President Trump’s promises to not cut Social Security, the budget also calls for over $72 billion in cuts to Social Security’s disability programs over the next 10 years, including cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Social Security and SSI benefits are modest, but absolutely essential for people with disabilities to put a roof over their head, food on the table, and to pay for their out-of-pocket medical expenses and disability related costs.
- Slashes Community Living Supports
President Trump’s proposed budget would sharply reduce – or even eliminate – a wide variety of effective federal programs that help to make a life in the community possible for millions of people with disabilities. These include:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides essential nutrition assistance for millions of people with disabilities, would face a 29 percent cut over 10 years. By 2027, over 5 million households that include a person with a disability could lose their SNAP benefit under this cut.
- Affordable housing programs at the Department of Housing and Urban Development would face a nearly 15 percent cut in 2018. The President’s budget targets the Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities program for a proposed $25 million cut in 2018. This would leave the Section 811 program with insufficient funds to renew all existing project-based rental assistance contracts thereby placing current lease compliant tenants in 811 properties at imminent risk of homelessness.
- Councils on Developmental Disabilities, independent living services, and traumatic brain injury services would see their funding to states eliminated and replaced with a new “innovation” program with less than half of the funding for the three programs. Click here to see a listing of discretionary programs and their proposed percentage cuts.
- Inadequate, Unworkable Paid Leave
The President’s budget proposes a new paid leave program that would provide up to 6 weeks of paid leave for mothers and fathers to care for a newborn or newly adopted child. According to the Associated Press, “states would be required to provide leave payments through existing unemployment insurance programs and would have to identify cuts or tax hikes, as needed, to cover the costs.”The proposal has been widely criticized as both unworkable – creating an unfunded mandate to states that would burden and undermine already-fragile unemployment systems – and inadequate. It leaves out the 75% of people who take leave in the U.S. for family caregiving and medical reasons – including people with disabilities who need leave to address their own health, and people who need leave to care for a family member with a disability or illness. In addition, 6 weeks often simply isn’t enough – particularly if you have a disability, are caring for a family member, or have a newborn in intensive care. In comparison, the Family and Medical Leave Act provides 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Finally, benefits would likely be insufficient: on average, state unemployment insurance programs presently only cover one third of a worker’s wages.
- Uses Bad Math and Benefits the Most Prosperous
President Trump’s proposed budget purports to cut $3.6 trillion in spending to balance the budget in 10 years, while also offering more than $5.5 trillion in tax reductions. The outsized tax cuts come primarily from reducing or eliminating taxes that are paid predominantly by wealthy households. These include the estate tax, the alternative minimum tax, and individual income tax on income earned through “pass-through” entities. The end result is that the budget would overwhelmingly benefit profitable corporations and wealthy individuals.In addition, the entire budget is based on bad math that virtually all independent economic analysts have dismissed.
- It assumes massive amounts of new revenue from a 50% increase in economic growth resulting from tax cuts, renegotiated trade deals, and deregulation.
- It claims there will be no deficit after 10 years as dramatic economic growth will allow the government to collect about $2 trillion more in tax revenue. However, the budget doesn’t include the cost of the proposed tax cuts, therefore relying on its tax cuts to both pay for themselves and add $2 trillion in additional tax revenue.
Next Steps in the House and Senate
Federal budgets are statement of our nation’s values – and it’s clear to The Arc that this budget simply doesn’t reflect what most Americans value. Fortunately, the President’s budget merely conveys the Administration’s priorities and is non-binding. The House and Senate must each develop their own budgets and reconcile any differences to implement their budget plans.
The House is presently developing its budget and may release it after the July 4 recess and the Senate could take the House’s budget shortly afterwards. The House budget may include many of the harmful provisions in the President’s Budget outlined above.
The Arc and numerous organizations representing civil rights, human services, and other communities are deeply committed to preventing the passage of harmful budgets. We’re working together to put a face on these proposed cuts and to urge Congress to reject the President’s proposed budget.