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ASAN Condemns President’s Budget Request

Statement:

ASAN strongly condemns the deep cuts that the President’s proposed budget would make to Medicaid, Social Security, employment programs, housing supports, and other critical programs for people with disabilities. The President’s profoundly hypocritical proposal would simultaneously slash the critical programs that help people with disabilities find employment, while punishing those who cannot find work by cutting us off from critical community supports such as Medicaid and housing assistance. The result would be an unprecedented rise in homelessness and institutionalization for people with disabilities. ASAN calls on Congress to reject these draconian cuts to vital programs and instead invest in the supports that will enable us all to succeed. We have fought these cuts before, and will continue to fight as long as is necessary.

Analysis:

At its core, the President’s budget promotes state-level “welfare to work” initiatives while simultaneously gutting programs that actually help us all find employment. While the disability community has long advocated for greater access to the workplace, we know from experience that without funding for critical supports, “welfare to work” programs really mean forcing people with disabilities to jump through bureaucratic hoops that we cannot navigate, and ultimately kicking eligible people off of the lifesaving supports that we need.

The President’s budget would eliminate critical educational and rehabilitation-focused programs that help people with disabilities access and succeed in the workplace:

  • It would cut $11 million, or nearly a third, out of the budget for the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) within the Department of Labor.
  • It would gut funding for the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AIDD) Projects of National Significance – which include state-level projects to improve our employment outcomes – by an astounding 90%.
  • It would reduce critical staff at the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR), which promotes research into employment supports and technologies that help people with disabilities work. And it would move NIDILRR from the Administration on Community Living, which emphasizes community-based employment for people with disabilities, to NIH, which focuses on medical research.
  • It would dramatically cut funding for State Councils on Developmental Disabilities, which help identify and meet pressing needs of people with developmental disabilities – including needs for employment-related services and supports.
  • It would slash the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s budget by more than 18%, resulting in loss of housing supports for 200,000 families, unaffordable rent hikes for families receiving assistance, and imposition of work requirements. These work requirements are wildly inconsistent with decades of research on delivery of mental health services prevention of homelessness, which has overwhelmingly supported a “housing first” model in which people are connected with housing supports with minimal preconditions. Housing instability, in turn, will make it even more difficult for people to access and keep employment.

It would also cut the following critical educational and vocational programs that help us gain employment, in order to pay $1.1 billion dollars in 2019, with an eventual goal of $20 billion dollars annually, into misguided “school choice” initiatives that all too frequently don’t serve students with disabilities:

  • It would eliminate state supported employment grants for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
  • It would cut all discretionary funding for model transition programs for students with intellectual disabilities in higher education (TPSID), as well as programs that benefit students of color, making this funding contingent on the passage of future legislation.
  • It would cut all federal funding for the Special Olympics, which promotes community engagement among people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
  • It would eliminate the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which encourages recent graduates to pursue careers in public service, including work at government agencies and non-profit organizations that provide employment-related services, supports, and advocacy.
  • It would cut significant amounts of funding from the University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDDs), which conduct vital research and train professionals who wish to support people with disabilities to access education, healthcare, and transition-related services including employment services.
  • Through these and other deep cuts to educational programs, the proposed budget would cut the Department of Education’s funding by $7.1 billion.

In light of these dramatic cuts to the programs that support work, it is clear that the real goal of this budget proposal is not to promote workplace participation. Rather, it is to use punitive work requirements to kick people off of the critical supports that we need to live and stay in our communities – such as Social Security, Medicaid, and housing assistance. These work requirements will increase the already significant bureaucratic burden on people with disabilities, resulting in many of us losing services. Moreover, the expense of implementing these requirements will even further deplete states’ budgets, taking away funding for programs that provide actually helpful supports.

These disastrous and dangerous policies don’t stop at employment. The budget would make additional massive cuts to basic benefits that allow everyday Americans to make ends meet, including many people with disabilities. The budget would cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps, by more than $213 billion dollars over the next ten years. In addition, the budget proposes the creation of an absurd, one-size-fits-all system in which the federal government would deliver a portion of each SNAP beneficiary’s benefits in the form of “shelf-stable milk, ready to eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans and canned fruit, vegetables, and meat, poultry or fish.” This proposal is both wasteful and inefficient, harmful to people with dietary restrictions and disabilities, and dramatically increases the amount of necessary federal oversight and administrative structure.

The budget would additionally:

  • Eliminate the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) that helps low-income people, including people with disabilities, pay their heating bills.
  • Eliminate the Community Services Block Grant, the Social Services Block Grant, and the Community Development Block Grant, all of which support anti-poverty and social services for low-income people.
  • Eliminate funding for the Legal Services Corporation, a nonprofit organization established by Congress which provides legal assistance to low-income people, including many people with disabilities.
  • Cut funding for the Office of Civil Rights within the Department of Health and Human Services, which helps to ensure that people with disabilities do not face discrimination in government-funded health programs.
  • Make it more difficult for people who lack access to their own documentation – such as people with disabilities who are homeless – to access timely benefits.
  • Eliminate the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which examines the effectiveness of a wide variety of different medical treatments and services, including whether they actually improve people’s health.
  • Cut Social Security Disability by capping retroactive benefits at 6 months instead of 12.
  • Punish families with more than one disabled family member by imposing a “sliding scale” for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for multi-recipient families.

Finally, the President’s budget attempts once again to repeal the ACA by proposing that Congress pass legislation similar to the Graham-Cassidy bill. That bill would have stripped away protections for people with pre-existing conditions and taken health insurance away from 20 million Americans, while making unsustainable, drastic cuts to Medicaid. The American people have repeatedly and resoundingly rejected any repeal of the ACA, and we have reiterated time and time again that Medicaid is the primary provider of the services and supports millions of people with disabilities need in order to live free, independent lives in our communities. This provision amounts to an attack on our independence and basic civil rights.

There is very little in this year’s Presidential Budget that is new–it’s just the same bad ideas rejected by the American people last year, dressed up in a new coat of paint. We urge Congress to formally reject each and every one of these disastrous proposals and move forward with a budget that supports people with disabilities and the programs that help us all to succeed.

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