President's budget would hurt low-income people—and our economy
Washington, D.C.—The budget proposed by President Trump signals a disturbing and perilous vision for America that abandons the millions of low- and moderate-income people who are working hard to strengthen their own and their families’ economic security. By slashing the vital programs that support these Americans, Trump would imperil the country’s overall economy, which depends on the success of everybody—not just those at the top. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “a budget is a moral document,” yet this draconian proposal is decidedly amoral.
The proposal includes a $54 billion increase in defense spending—as well as additional funding to support Trump’s devastating mass deportation agenda—that is funded by a decrease of the same amount in nondefense spending. For context, this decrease comes after years of declining funding as a result of the "sequester" caps on spending. Thus, the base that Trump proposes to cut significantly is already woefully insufficient to meet the needs. The budget also proposes to break a previous bipartisan agreement that any sequester relief would be applied equally to defense and non-defense spending.
While the budget doesn’t address Medicaid or other entitlements, it comes after the introduction of the American Health Care Act, which is predicted to have devastating results—including 24 million people losing health insurance and an $880 billion decrease in Medicaid over 10 years—while handing a massive tax cut to the wealthy.
Trump’s harsh budget is dangerous, both immediately and in the future. Immediately, it would put more people at risk of hunger, homelessness, and deprivation by eliminating:
- The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program that assists low-income families and seniors so they can afford heating and cooling bills—helping them stay safe and preventing them from trading off food against paying utility bills.
- Housing assistance so that fewer people would be served, placing more people at risk of eviction and homelessness.
- The Legal Services Corporation, which provides vital legal assistance to low-income people facing civil legal issues including eviction and employment discrimination.
And the budget devastates America’s future by chopping investments in the programs that help today’s children, youth, and adults get a secure start in life, get an education, and move up on the job through postsecondary education and job training.
- For children, the budget eliminates the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program that provides critical summer, before-school, and after-school programs to low-income children and youth.
- Low-income students face a perfect storm of cuts that undermine their ability to start and complete postsecondary education. The budget slashes student aid by $4.6 billion; proposes a “significant” reduction to the Federal Work-Study program; removes $3.9 billion from the Pell Grant program, which already covers less than 30 percent of the average cost of college attendance, leaving students with significant unmet need; and eliminates Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, a federal program that provides $733 million to help students with the greatest need cover the cost of attending college. The budget also reduces funding for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) and TRIO, which help prepare vulnerable youth and low-income, first-generation and nontraditional students for postsecondary education and provide services throughout the education pipeline.
- At the same time, the budget slashes other resources for workforce training—placing more and more barriers in the way of youth and adults who want to add skills and move up on the job, as well as state and local economies that depend on skilled workers. It substantially cuts grants to states and local areas to provide workforce training to low-income youth and adults through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which passed Congress in 2014 with overwhelming bipartisan support.
- And the budget proposes to completely eliminate crucial programs that help low-income Americans succeed at work, including the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which supports subsidized employment and crucial job opportunities for low-income unemployed Americans who are just a few years away from retirement; the Health Profession Opportunity Grants that build career pathways for low-skill adults into critical health care careers and supply a vital pipeline of skilled workers needed by the long-term care and hospital industries; and the Corporation for National and Community Service, which administers the AmeriCorps program that offers career-boosting service opportunities for 80,000 young Americans to support natural disaster relief, provide critical education and social services to low-income youth and the elderly, and help local communities solve pressing issues such as hunger and poverty.
The budget also flies in the face of research evidence showing the benefits of public investments in low-income families and workers—after school programs, postsecondary education and skills training for youth and adults, and basic supports like health, nutrition, and housing playing a crucial role for all. For example, the budget adds enforcement resources to police and the border patrol while making no commitment to continue to fund discretionary programs such as reentry services and the Title II Formula Grants Program and Title V – Delinquency Prevention Program of the Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention Act that support juvenile justice system improvements, as well as state and local prevention and intervention efforts for court-involved youth and those at risk of justice involvement. When coupled with the deep cuts in federal investment in education and career opportunities, this amounts to doubling down on a failed approach: back-end policing as a substitute for front-end opportunities. This outdated law-and-order approach, contradicted by evidence and experience, has historically been particularly harmful to communities of color.
Finally, the budget represents an attack on the capacity of states and cities to meet the needs of their own communities. Despite the rhetoric of flexibility, the reality is this budget would slash funds to states, leaving governors and mayors on their own to choose and administer cuts—just as the American Health Care Act proposes to cut almost $900 billion from the federal commitment to the state-federal Medicaid program. Besides the examples already listed, the budget eliminates funding for the Community Services Block Grant program, and the Community Development Block Grant, which provide states and cities with flexible funding to meet locally determined needs including affordable housing, improvements to health care and child care facilities, disaster recovery assistance, community-based job training, and workforce development programs for low-income youth. High-poverty areas, whether rural or urban, would be devastated by these cuts.
CLASP urges the House and Senate to reject Trump’s budget. Instead, Congress should continue strong federal investments for programs and services that low-income families—and our nation's future—depend on.
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The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) is a national, nonpartisan, anti-poverty organization advancing policy solutions that work for low-income people. With nearly 50 years of trusted expertise, a deeply knowledgeable staff, and a commitment to practical yet visionary approaches to opportunity for all, CLASP lifts up the voices of poor and low-income children, families, and individuals, equips advocates with strategies that work, and helps public officials put good ideas into practice. The organization’s solutions directly address the barriers that individuals and families face because of race, ethnicity, and immigration status, in addition to low income. For more information, visit www.clasp.org and follow @CLASP_DC.