What Does Trump's Budget Mean To You? - Part 1
On March 13, President Trump released his anticipated budget blueprint for 2018. He described the draft in these words:
"A budget that puts America first must make the safety of our people its number one priority because, without safety, there can be no prosperity...
To keep Americans safe, we have made tough choices that have been put off for too long. But we have also made necessary investments that are long overdue."
The blueprint is not a full budget, but rather an outline of the priorities of the President and his administration. It is the first step in the process that Congress will ultimately have to resolve, and a great deal is likely to change before it becomes final.
Defense was the big winner, with a 9% increase that hands the department $54 billion more than it received in FY2017. The proposed funding of a border wall and school choice vouchers also received substantial new allocations. With the increases come cuts in other areas. Nineteen agencies would lose funding completely under this proposal, including the Corporation for National and Community Service (AmeriCorps), Corporation for Public Broadcasting (PBS), National Endowments for Arts and Humanities, US Interagency Council on Homelessness, and more. Many of these cuts would directly affect lower to middle-income Americans who depend on housing assistance, student aid, or other forms of assistance.
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
The blueprint made headlines with its cuts to Meals on Wheels, but the reality is that Meals on Wheels is largely a volunteer and donation-based program that does not rely on federal funding. It does receive funds from the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant program, which would be eliminated under the proposed blueprint.
The Community Development Block Grant program is part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and goes towards providing communities with funds and resources for community development needs and affordable housing.
Since it began in 1975, Community Development Block Grants have invested over $150 billion into communities to revitalize not only affordable housing but also improvements to parks, senior centers and services, health care and childcare centers.
The elimination of Community Development Block Grants will affect a broad range of local programs that have been receiving Federal assistance through this program.
The proposed budget would eliminate several other HUD programs. These include the HOME Investment Partnership Program, the Choice Neighborhoods Program, and the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program, which helps develops neighborhoods and assist with low-income homeownership.
Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8) will receive $35 billion, $3 billion less than in the current fiscal year.
The impact of these cuts has already been felt at street level. In February, Crestview, Florida canceled its Section 8 housing waitlist in anticipation of shortfalls.
Other local agencies are closely monitoring how Secretary Ben Carson makes changes in HUD policies that could affect entitlement programs such as housing vouchers.
Another agency slated for elimination is the US Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), which focuses on eliminating youth and family homelessness by 2020. USICH receives high marks from local officials and is credited with helping decrease the number of homeless veterans by almost half.
There is no indication at this point of what steps the new administration intends to take to address homelessness.
Trump's proposal increases the Energy Department's allocation for managing the nation's stockpile of nuclear weapons but cuts funding on science and climate efforts. One program set for the chopping block is the Weatherization Assistance Program, which provides states grants to improve energy efficiency for low-income families and some Native American tribes.
The Weatherization Assistance Program has helped over seven million families make their homes more energy-efficient and reduce their energy bills.
Another program that helps families and the elderly pay their heating and cooling bills, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, is stashed in the Department of Health & Human Services budget and is also slated for elimination.
The Department of Health & Human Services
The Department of Health and Human Services is facing an 18% cut, but the proposal does not mention funding for key programs under the agency, including Medicare and Medicaid benefits, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or Head Start, the program that helps low-income preschool children. President Trump has stated that he will protect Medicare and Medicaid, along with Social Security, but the Affordable Healthcare Act reform could reflect nearly $1 trillion in cuts over the next ten years.
These cuts could have serious implications for the availability of health care to low and middle-income American families.
The Labor Department could see cuts of 21% in funding for programs supporting job training and readiness for seniors and disadvantaged youth. The administration believes that the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), which was designed to assist unemployed people over the age of 55, was ineffective in transitioning low-income seniors into subsidized jobs. This program has seen cuts throughout the Obama Administration, but the Trump proposal would eliminate it. The proposal may also wipe out Job Corps centers that are ineffective in their mission of providing job training for disadvantaged youth.
The proposal will eliminate the Corporation for National and Community Service, which runs AmeriCorps and Senior Corps. AmeriCorps sends volunteers into needy communities for one to two-year service commitments to serve in schools, treatment centers, senior services, natural disaster relief, environmental protection and other social service sectors, in exchange for a living stipend and an education award that can help with student tuitions or loans.