Trump’s budget cuts to the core of necessities | GUEST OP

  • Thursday, June 15, 2017 5:30pm
  • Opinion

For more than 40 years, there has been a bipartisan commitment to end hunger in America.

We all share in the responsibility to ensure that everyone in our community has the basic supports we all need – from food to housing to health care. We know these issues are tightly linked – helping people put food on the table not only improves nutrition and health, but it also helps people afford to pay their rent.

Yet President Trump’s budget is based on draconian cuts to the very solutions that put food on the table and a roof overhead. Congress must reject President Trump’s budget and commit to a budget that preserves the integrity of the safety net for hungry and homeless people in our community – and in communities like ours all across the country.

Our organizations are on the front lines of that work. The Auburn Food Bank’s staff and 35 volunteers provide food to 11,250 people every month. Nexus Youth and Families provides food and shelter, clothing, case management and behavioral health services to more than 4,000 youth and families, 5,000 students in local schools and 1,700 shelter bed nights to homeless young people. We can do our jobs in our community thanks to the lifeline offered by SNAP, Medicaid and low-income housing funds – all of which Congress must protect.

At the food bank, we know that America’s first line of defense against hunger is – and must remain – SNAP, the federal food stamp program. SNAP is a critical source of nutrition for many of our clients and for nearly one million Washingtonians statewide. Yet President Trump’s budget slashes SNAP funding and fundamentally restructures the program so that families and communities could no longer count on our most effective tool to solve hunger and fight poverty.

Trump’s budget not only cuts $193 billion from SNAP over the next 10 years, it also ends the federal government’s commitment to providing food assistance. Instead, it shifts 25 percent of SNAP’s cost to states in the next decade, cutting more than $2.5 billion in federal funding for Washington alone – a budget hole our state, our food bank and our neighbors can’t possibly afford. Trump also proposes allowing states to cut back benefits and eliminate the minimum benefit level – currently only $16 per month. Just eliminating the minimum benefit would result in 54,000 people in Washington SNAP benefits altogether.

We know that it doesn’t help the people we serve to have food if they don’t also have a place to eat. Access to affordable housing is a visible and growing problem in our community, as well as nearly every county in Washington. At a time we need more resources to solve our housing crisis, President Trump’s budget cuts $17.4 billion from affordable housing, slashing most of the programs our community counts on as part of the essential mix of local, state and federal housing support.

Medicaid ensures that health care is available for all of us – by expanding Medicaid eligibility, nearly 600,000 Washingtonians gained health insurance in the past few years. Medicaid enabled 168,000 Washingtonians to receive critical mental health services, and 30,000 people received substance abuse treatment care. Yet President Trump’s budget cuts Medicaid funding by 20 percent over 10 years – on top of Congress’s attempts to roll back Medicaid even more drastically.

In Trump’s budget alone, our state would lose approximately $2.5 billion in federal funds per year by 2027. At Nexus Youth and Families, we know what a difference Medicaid coverage makes because, nearly 5,000 youth and families have critically needed counseling and mental health services provided to them owing to Medicaid expansion that leads to stability, long term health and well being.

There are many, many more cuts to the safety net in this budget proposal – from Social Security Disability Insurance to utility assistance to child care, and on. Congress must put forward a budget that provides a foundation for our community’s well being – so that any of us can count on food to eat, medical care and a roof overhead when we need it.

Debbie Christian is the executive director of the Auburn Food Bank. Sylvia Fuerstenberg is executive director of Nexus Youth and Family Services.

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