The President released his budget proposal, and while the $4.1 trillion request is slightly higher than FY 2017 spending levels, it significantly reallocates where the money would go. The budget proposal, entitled “A New Foundation for Greatness,” would put more money into spending on defense, border security, and infrastructure. It would slash nondefense discretionary funding, already historically low, by $54 billion next year and an additional 2% per year through 2028, for an estimated $3.6 trillion in cuts to spending over 10 years.
Kelly Buckland, Executive Director of the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) said of the President’s budget: “The President’s budget proposal is irresponsible and would be detrimental to many of the programs and services people with disabilities rely on. The programs that support our health, well-being, and independence have been targeted, with proposed funding for these programs being brought to unrealistic and dangerously low levels. If enacted, hundreds of Centers for Independent Living may be forced to close, and people around the country will die from the cuts to Medicaid. The results of this budget would be disastrous.”
Despite the fact that the President previously promised not to cut Social Security, the proposed budget would make $72 billion in cuts to disability programs like Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Part of those cuts would result from the Administration’s efforts to limit eligibility and ‘encourage’ work. While eliminating disincentives to work is a priority for NCIL, we believe the Administration’s efforts are misguided, operating under the assumption that these programs are rampant with people ‘gaming the system’. In reality, these programs, particularly SSDI, have strict requirements that must be met and rigorous screenings already in place. The proposed budget cuts will largely serve to put vital benefits out of reach for even more people with disabilities.
Moreover, the budget proposal includes huge cuts to Medicaid funding, both from the repeal and replace of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and additional cuts to the program. The budget proposes well over $1 trillion in Medicaid cuts (estimates have been as high as over $1.4 trillion) over the decade from a combination of repealing and replacing the ACA and an estimated $610 billion in additional cuts. President Trump’s budget also proposes allowing states to choose between per capita caps or block grants for their Medicaid program for all beneficiaries. The block grants in the President’s budget would make even further cuts than those allowed under the American Health Care Act (AHCA).
The Department of Health and Human Services budget appendix (PDF) also contains some major changes and cuts. As we saw in the leaked budget tables, the budget proposes a $142.4 million decrease in overall funding for the Administration for Community Living (for total funding of $1.85 billion). With regards to the Independent Living Program, the President’s proposal level funds Part C Independent Living funding at $78 million, but it completely changes Part B funding. The budget proposes ‘consolidating’ funding from Part B Independent Living funding ($23 million in the FY 2017 budget), the State Council on Developmental Disabilities ($73 million), and Traumatic Brain Injury funding ($6 million of the $9 million in FY 2017) into one “Partnership for Innovation, Inclusion, and Independence.” The funding for this new Partnership line item is $45 million, a $57 million loss from the $102 million combined in funding in FY 2017. The cuts resulting from this consolidation would be detrimental to all three programs. Moreover, these programs each have distinct statutory requirements in different statutes, which not only would make this consolidation injudicious, but also demonstrates a real lack of understanding on the part of the Administration.
On top of all this, the President’s budget proposal would also reduce spending on many other programs that people with disabilities and others rely on, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). It would also make major funding cuts for housing, education, research, and much more.
Through this budget proposal, President Trump’s priorities come through clearly. The massive cuts to vital programs – including the Independent Living Program – on top of the cuts to Medicaid, SSDI, and SSI, display a complete ignorance about the needs of the people in this country; especially people with disabilities. That said, the President’s budget proposal is only one step in the federal budget process, and the President’s budget is never the final result. President Trump’s budget does not have the support of Democrats in Congress, and it has gotten mixed feedback from Republicans, with many expressing grave concerns. This proposal shows where our President’s priorities lie, but it is on Congress to develop the funding bills that will determine actual spending levels.
We need to fight now against any cuts that will negatively impact the Independent Living Program and people with disabilities in FY 2018. We need you to continue talking with your Senators and Representatives. Invite them to visit your Center for Independent Living (CIL) to see the invaluable work being done in their communities. Make sure they know how important the work of your CIL is to you, and let them know how harmful it would be to adopt the proposed ‘consolidation’ in the President’s budget. Also, make sure they know how important the programs our community relies on (like SSDI and Medicaid) are to the disability community. Congress needs to hear from their constituents now more than ever!
NCIL statement online: https://t.e2ma.net/message/fdnnn/jkjwad
(image description: NCIL National Council on Independent Living logo.)