Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy, whose great aunt founded the Special Olympics, slammed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ proposal to cut funds for the organization as a “cruel” and “misguided” move, while also asserting that such cuts will never occur.
“Republicans just passed a tax cut that reduced funding into our coffers and then to say you don’t have the money for Special Olympics or autism funding. It’s cruel, it’s misguided and it’s outrageous,” Kennedy said Thursday in an interview with CNN’s John Berman on “New Day.”
Kennedy is the great nephew of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who is the founder of the Special Olympics and the sister of President John F. Kennedy.
“This is an exact example of a program that, between a nonprofit community support and government, is able to lift up those that historically have been left in the shadows throughout our country’s history. Why would the federal government not want to raise those folks up and celebrate them? That’s the whole point,” Kennedy said.
DeVos is standing firm on her 2020 Education Department budget proposal that includes eliminating all grant money for the Special Olympics, arguing that the nonprofit doesn’t need federal backing because it can successfully raise private contributions.
“Given our current budget realities, the federal government cannot fund every worthy program, particularly ones that enjoy robust support from private donations,” she said in a statement Wednesday.
DeVos said that she personally supports the Special Olympics and a spokesperson confirmed that the secretary donated part of her salary to the organization last year.
“I very much appreciate that. I’m glad she’s a supporter, and I hope that she will continue to be,” Kennedy told CNN.
Kennedy added that he’s “confident” the cuts to the Special Olympics will “never happen” because of the organization’s local community and international impact and its bipartisan support.
CNN’s Katie Lobosco contributed to this report.