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It’s budget season in Washington; 5 Worst things for people with disabilities

By Jamey Helgeson

The Arc Mower County

The president’s proposed fiscal year 2018 budget released last month would make unprecedented cuts to public education, health, transportation, housing, and countless other effective federal programs.

These massive cuts would affect most Americans in one form or another, and would be particularly devastating to people with disabilities and their families. The budget is titled “The New Foundation for American Greatness” — but the reality couldn’t be more different. Here are five reasons the president’s proposed budget is anything but great for people with disabilities.

More cuts to Medicaid

Under the President’s proposed budget, Medicaid, the primary health insurance and long term services and supports program for people with disabilities, would lose $610 billion over 10 years (on top of the over $830 billion in cuts in the American Health Care Act passed by the House of Representatives in March).

The combined cuts roughly halve the program’s federal budget by 2027. Medicaid’s “optional” services, expected to take the brunt of such a drastic cut, include prescription drugs, physical therapy, and all home and community based services under state plan and “waiver” programs. Medicaid, including home and community based services, makes it possible for millions of people with disabilities to survive and to live and work in the community.

Breaks the promise on Social Security

Despite President Trump’s promises to not cut Social Security, the budget also calls for over $72 billion in cuts to Social Security’s disability programs over the next 10 years, including cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Social Security and SSI benefits are modest, but absolutely essential for people with disabilities to put a roof over their head, food on the table, and to pay for their out-of-pocket medical expenses and disability related costs.

Slashes community living supports

President Trump’s proposed budget would sharply reduce — or even eliminate — a wide variety of effective federal programs that help to make a life in the community possible for millions of people with disabilities. These include:

•Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

•Affordable housing

•Councils on developmental disabilities, independent living services, and traumatic brain injury services

Inadequate, unworkable paid leave

The president’s budget proposes a new paid leave program that would provide up to six weeks of paid leave for mothers and fathers to care for a newborn or newly adopted child. According to the Associated Press, “states would be required to provide leave payments through existing unemployment insurance programs and would have to identify cuts or tax hikes, as needed, to cover the costs.”

The proposal has been widely criticized as both unworkable — creating an unfunded mandate to states that would burden and undermine already-fragile unemployment systems — and inadequate. It leaves out the 75 percent of people who take leave in the U.S. for family caregiving and medical reasons — including people with disabilities who need leave to address their own health, and people who need leave to care for a family member with a disability or illness. In addition, six weeks often simply isn’t enough — particularly if you have a disability, are caring for a family member, or have a newborn in intensive care.

In comparison, the Family and Medical Leave Act provides 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Finally, benefits would likely be insufficient: on average, state unemployment insurance programs presently only cover one third of a worker’s wages.

Uses bad math and benefits the most prosperous

President Trump’s proposed budget purports to cut $3.6 trillion in spending to balance the budget in 10 years, while also offering more than $5.5 trillion in tax reductions.

The outsized tax cuts come primarily from reducing or eliminating taxes that are paid predominantly by wealthy households. These include the estate tax, the alternative minimum tax, and individual income tax on income earned through “pass-through” entities. The end result is that the budget would overwhelmingly benefit profitable corporations and wealthy individuals. In addition, the entire budget is based on bad math that virtually all independent economic analysts have dismissed.

Next steps in the House and Senate

Federal budgets are statements of our nation’s values — and it’s clear to The Arc that this budget simply doesn’t reflect what most Americans value. Fortunately, the President’s budget merely conveys the Administration’s priorities and is non-binding. The House and Senate must each develop their own budgets and reconcile any differences to implement their budget plans.

The House is presently developing its budget and may release it after the July 4 recess and the Senate could take the House’s budget shortly afterwards. The House budget may include many of the harmful provisions in the president’s budget outlined above.

The Arc and numerous organizations representing civil rights, human services, and other communities are deeply committed to preventing the passage of harmful budgets. We’re working together to put a face on these proposed cuts and to urge Congress to reject the President’s proposed budget.