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Four Ways the President’s Budget Will Hurt the Disabled

July 18, 2017

Even though it is summertime, an icy wind is blowing in from Washington, D.C., for disabled Americans, as the federal budget season kicks off. President Trump’s proposed 2018 budget is titled, “The New Foundation for American Greatness”, but it may not be so great if you are one of the more than 56 million people in the U.S. with a disability. Under this budget plan, there will be massive cuts to public education, health, transportation, and hundreds of other federal programs, with the money shifted to fund tax cuts for the wealthy. If the budget is passed in its present form, people with disabilities will have to bear painful and disproportionate economic setbacks in at least four ways:

1. Slashing Medicaid. Medicaid and the Child Health Insurance Program is the primary health insurance for 74 million Americans, and they each provide critical support to millions of people with disabilities and their families. Under the proposed budget, Medicaid funding would be cut by $610 billion over ten years, and this would be on top of the more than $830 billion in Medicaid funding on the chopping block as part of the Senate’s new health care act. The Austin Daily Herald reports, “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.”

Rebecca Vallas, managing director of the Poverty to Prosperity Program at the Center for American Progress, argues, “Many people rely on Medicaid for attendant care and services, home modifications, and in-home hospital grade equipment. Rather than needing to be in a state-run institution, they get to live in a house with family or in their own apartment and be part of their community.”

2. Paints a target on Social Security disability. During the heated 2016 presidential campaign, candidate Donald Trump pledged that he would leave Social Security alone; that he would ensure that seniors and disabled Americans get the benefits they have earned despite projected future shortfalls in the Social Security Trust Fund. He positioned himself as the only candidate to make such a promise. However, his 2018 budget calls for cutting Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) funding by $72 billion over the next ten years. Time magazine says, “Critics argue that the Trump administration’s proposal to slash SSDI breaks one of the president’s core campaign promises not to cut Social Security. Administration officials have defended the move by explaining that SSDI is not a ‘core’ part of Social Security.”

3. Programs that support community living are in danger. For millions of Americans coping with disabilities, life in communities rather than institutions is only possible because of support from successful safety-net programs. These include housing assistance, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Meals on Wheels, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, councils on developmental disabilities, and autism programs—among a long list of others. President Trump’s proposed budget would gut many of these programs by reducing their funding or even by totally eliminating them.

4. Inadequate, unworkable paid leave. Championed by the president’s daughter, Ivanka, the budget proposal includes a new paid leave program that would provide up to six weeks of paid leave for mothers and fathers to care for a newborn or newly adopted child. The Associated Press reports that “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 Austin Daily Herald says “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 percent 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, six 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.”

Senator Patty Murray, D-Wash., the top Democrat on the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee said, “By slashing critical efforts to support education for students with disabilities, increase employment opportunities for workers with disabilities, provide affordable health care for people with disabilities and provide accessible housing…millions of Americans with disabilities [will be hung] out to dry.”

It is still important to call these elected officials to express your opposition to the pending Senate Republican health care attack. Tell them that the Affordable Care Act can and should be fixed with cooperation from both parties.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (202) 224-6472
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (202) 224-6665
Sen. Dean Heller (202) 224-6244
Sen. Dan Sullivan (202) 224-3004
Sen. Jeff Flake (202) 224-4521
Sen. Susan Collins (202) 224-2523
Sen. Bill Cassidy (202) 224-5824
Sen. Bob Corker (202) 224-3344
Sen. Rob Portman (202) 224-3353
Sen. Cory Gardner (202) 224-5941
Sen. Richard Shelby (202) 224-5744
Sen. Luther Strange (202) 224-4124
Sen. Pat Toomey (202) 224-4254
Sen. Lamar Alexander (202) 224-4944
Sen. Ron Johnson (202) 224-5323
Sen. John Boozman (202) 224-4843
Sen. Tom Cotton (202) 224-2353
Sen. John Hoeven (202) 224-2551