Trump’s Budget Built on Myth, Attacks Low-Income People

By Nune Phillips

This week, the Trump Administration released its 2019 budget proposal, which is yet another gut-punch to low-income individuals and families. The budget includes devastating cuts to core benefit programs that would destabilize millions of lives and unravel our nation’s safety net. Many of its proposals pretend to promote work and self-sufficiency; in reality, they’re designed to kick millions of people off food, health care, and housing assistance.

The budget proposals, including new work requirements for food, health care, and rental assistance, are rooted in lies and misconceptions about people who use public benefits, including the claim that they choose not to work. In reality, we know that many people receiving these supports who can work already do. However, many workers have low-wage jobs with too few and unstable hours and little-to-no workplace benefits, making it impossible to meet basic needs. Work requirements would take away the supports people need to put food on the table, access health care, and cover basic housing needs

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) already has work requirements and a strict 3-month time limit for non-disabled adults without children. Yet the budget includes flawed proposals that would create additional barriers for some of the most vulnerable Americans

  • Forcing states to impose the SNAP time limit, even when jobs aren’t available and during economic downturns;
  • Removing state flexibility to exempt some SNAP recipients from the harsh time limit; and
  • Expanding existing SNAP work requirements and the time limit to older unemployed and underemployed adults. 

These changes would prevent states from serving their residents during economic downturns and revoke their flexibility to respond quickly when needed. Many adults who are currently subject to the time limit are simply cut off from SNAP without ever being offered opportunities for training or work. Extending the time limit to an older population means fewer people would have access to crucial food assistance. 

Additional proposed changes to core benefit programs include:

  • Approving state waiver requests to allow work requirements in Medicaid as a condition of health care coverage. These requirements are illegal because they contradict the program’s goals. Other groups have already mounted a legal challenge to the administration’s approval of Kentucky’s waiver request, including its work requirement.
  • Allowing housing authorities and property owners to impose work requirements on residents to stay in their homes. Current demonstration projects that impose such requirements have never been evaluated to determine if they’ve helped people get jobs.
  • Encouraging states to subject noncustodial parents to work requirements if they have outstanding child support payments, with no new funding to support this requirement.
  • Authorizing a handful of states to divert funding that covers basic needs into a single “Welfare-to-Work” program that would likely not include the protections in existing programs

We know that work requirements restrict access to support programs and create barriers to basic needs for millions. If our goal is to promote work, making people homeless, hungry, and sick moves us in the wrong direction. With these ill-conceived proposals, the president’s budget places the greatest burden on the poorest Americans by threatening their basic needs, such as food and medical care, to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy