CHN: President Trump’s FY20 Budget Slashes Critical Human Needs Programs

The Trump Administration released its Fiscal Year 2020 topline budget message, priorities, and summary tables on March 11, with detailed line-item information released on March 18. From slashing housing assistance, Medicaid, SNAP/food stamps, education, and other basic needs programs, to proposing harsh work reporting requirements for several federal programs, to completely eliminating programs like home heating and cooling assistance for low-income people and food packages for low-income seniors, President Trump’s FY20 budget would leave millions of Americans without the assistance they need. At the same time, the budget permanently extends the GOP tax cuts passed in 2017, which the House Budget Committee says will add another $1 trillion to deficits over the last four years of the 10-year budget window.

Overall, the Trump budget proposes large cuts to funding for FY20 domestic and international annually-appropriated programs below FY19 levels. While the Administration says the cuts would amount to 5 percent, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains that these cuts would actually equate to 9 percent ($54 billion), and to 11 percent ($69 billion) after adjusting for inflation. By the end of the 10-year budget window, domestic and international funding would be 24 percent below the 2019 level, or 41 percent below in inflation-adjusted terms.

The cuts to mandatory programs include reductions over 10 years of $1.4 trillion to Medicaid, $220 billion to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), $70 billion to Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and $21 billion to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). According to Bread for the World, every religious congregation in the U.S. would need to raise an additional $400,000 each year for the next 10 years to make up for the proposed cuts to anti-hunger and poverty programs found in the Trump Administration’s FY20 budget proposal.

The defense side of the Trump budget gets a big boost, however. The President’s budget ignores statutory spending caps for defense spending by proposing $174 billion for the uncapped Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund, in addition to the capped funding of $576 billion for defense spending for FY20, leading to a total defense-related budget allocation of $750 billion. This would be $34 billion more than Congress appropriated for FY19 in total; the OCO funding would be more than double the $69 billion provided for OCO this year, despite the fact that OCO war-related operations are scheduled to diminish. The President is also proposing an additional $8.6 billion in funding for building a border wall, and $2.7 billion to continue jailing immigrants—including families and children—at historic high levels.

While the President’s budget as a whole does not move through Congress or become law, it is a statement of priorities from the White House. As CHN’s March 11 statement notes, “President Trump’s budget for FY 2020 is consistent with his presidency so far. It is all about denying help to those who lack power or wealth and lavishing advantage to those who have both.” Even as some members of President Trump’s own party reject his budget, some proposals it contains are ones advocates have seen before from previous GOP budgets and legislation, and they may be a sign of proposals to come in future budgets and spending bills. Moreover, the Trump Administration is intent on implementing some of its restrictive policy proposals, such as work reporting requirements and caps on Medicaid funding, through rule changes they assert do not require Congressional action. Advocates have committed to fighting proposals like these that will harm low-income families and individuals.

A note on budget terminology: throughout these articles, you will see references to the two main categories of federal spending: “discretionary” and “mandatory.” Discretionary spending refers to those programs that require annual appropriations by Congress. Most defense, education, and housing fall into this category, plus many social service, environmental and community development programs. Mandatory spending includes programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP/food stamps, and other basic safety net programs that do not require annual appropriations. Instead, Congress authorizes the way they spend money by legislation. Congress can cut or expand these programs by amending the legislation that authorizes them.

CHN’s FY20 Budget and Appropriations resource page is constantly updated with helpful resources and analyses of the Trump budget from many expert organizations, including resources on health, nutrition, housing, fair revenues, and more. The Coalition on Human Needs also hosted a webinar on President Trump’s budget on March 14; a recording of the webinar will be added to the resource page as soon as it is available. Stay tuned to upcoming Human Needs Reports for additional analysis of Congressional budget proposals.

Budget and Appropriations