Editor’s Note: Rachel Black is co-director of the Family-Centered Social Policy program at New America. The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
The budget released today by President Donald Trump’s administration makes clear that he assigns no value to the human cost of his policy choices.
As his framing message suggests, “To keep Americans safe, we have made tough choices that have been put off for too long. ” Choices, he says, made in the interest of fiscal responsibility. Fiscal responsibility is a good idea but not when the result is morally bankrupt.
The egregiousness of the cuts he proposes can best be understood through the impact they would have on the access that millions of people would have to such a basic need: food. Here are the 10 worst cuts in Trump’s “skinny budget.”
Meals on Wheels
Trump’s budget cuts the Community Development Block Grant program to state and local governments, many of which use the money to fund services for poor seniors, including Meals on Wheels, a food assistance program serving almost 2.5 million low-income seniors in 2015.
Aid for poor college students
The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, which provides financial assistance for poor college students, is eliminated. The cost of college can be a major financial impediment, especially for students from low-income backgrounds. Just yesterday, a new report from Wisconsin HOPE Lab, a research institution at the University of Wisconsin studying postsecondary outcomes, found that two-thirds of community-college students don’t have enough to eat, and 14% are homeless.
Heating assistance for low-income people
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps families afford heating and cooling costs. LIHEAP is an essential tool for preventing the occurrence of “heat or eat” situations where families must cut back on food to offset increased energy costs. In Boston, for example, researchers found a 30% increase in the number of underweight infants and toddlers in the winter months compared to the rest of the year.
After school and summer programs
21st Century Community Learning Centers provide before and after school and summer programs for children in low-income communities. These programs frequently receive funding through other federal resources to provide health snacks and meals to children who participate and can fill a critical nutritional gap for children, especially over the summer.
Nutrition for pregnant and nursing women
The Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is not eliminated in Trump’s budget, but is substantially reduced. It supports pregnant, postpartum, and nursing women and helps young children have their nutritional needs met at critical points in a their development. This absence could result in lasting cognitive and physical impairment.
Nutrition for kids in developing countries
McGovern-Dole International Food for Education program promotes both nutrition and school enrollment and advancement in developing countries by providing meals in schools. This proposed cut comes less that one week after the UN humanitarian chief announced that the world is facing the largest threat of famine since 1945, which is only declared when at least 30% of a population is acutely malnourished, and two adults or four children per every 10,000 people are dying each day. This crisis makes McGovern-Dole, as well as other programs administered by the USDA and USAID also on the chopping block, especially essential.
Emergency food assistance
The Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) provides a range of services in partnership with community-based organizations, include emergency food assistance through food banks. The local administration of these resources enable community organizations to design services that are customized to be effective in that context.
(Note: The budget also eliminates a range of other similarly broad programs that provide critical services to vulnerable families and build local capacity to address community challenges.)
Efforts to revitalize public housing
Choice Neighborhoods takes a community-driven approach to the revitalization of neighborhoods with public housing. This holistic strategy moves away from previous approaches that isolate public housing from community resources and services and attempts to fully integrate families into the community.
The Legal Services Corporation provides funding for legal aid groups to support the low-income households in civil cases, such as securing restraining orders for victims of domestic abuse and helping homeowners prevent foreclosure. These legal services bolster families who otherwise have limited protection during incredible destabilizing events.
The Corporation for National and Community Service, which includes programs like AmeriCorps, provides service and volunteering opportunities in supporting community needs.
The cuts to these programs, in the end, are hardly to scale with the cost of the priorities that Trump claims to have. And while for most presidents, a proposed budget is an aspirational document, President Trump’s party holds both houses of Congress. Unless his own party opposes him, he faces few obstacles in pushing his budget forward. Left unchecked, this budget will have an immediate and negative material impact on our nation, and the world’s, most vulnerable people.