Five State of the Union Questions


February 5, 2019

Will President Trump call for an increase in the federal minimum wage?

It’s been stuck at $7.25 for the past 10 years. Gradually raising it to $15 an hour by 2024 would raise wages by $144 billion for more than 41 million workers, directly or indirectly. That’s a lot less than the $275 billion in corporate tax cuts in the year after the Trump tax cut passed, but it would be a big help.

Will the President announce help to prevent hunger in Puerto Rico?

In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, there was, as in every other disaster-struck area, an increased need for food assistance. States have access to Disaster SNAP benefits that help them cope with such increased relief. Puerto Rico does not. It receives a flat amount for its Nutrition Assistance Program, which was increased on a temporary basis after the hurricanes devastated Puerto Rico. It wasn’t enough; by the end of March, there will not be enough cover those in need; 1.4 million people will lose some or all of their food assistance.  There is a proposal that passed the House but not yet the Senate to provide $600 million to provide the extra nutrition aid needed for the rest of the year. The President has explicitly opposed this; just as his Administration has held up Community Development Block Grant funds for rebuilding in Puerto Rico that Congress approved. In the first nine days after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit Texas and Florida, FEMA distributed about $100 million to those affected; in the same period after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, only $6 million had been distributed, according to a new study. Will the President change his mind in the face of the need, or were those rolls of paper towels his major contribution?

Will the President explain why his Administration is approving state actions to deny Medicaid to people struggling to work, even when a court has ruled against such moves?

The number of uninsured people rose last year to 13.7 percent, the highest rate since the first quarter of 2014, according to a new Gallup Poll. In addition to many actions to thwart enrollment in marketplace health insurance, the Trump Administration has encouraged states to set up work reporting requirements for Medicaid. In Arkansas, people are required to report monthly online, whether or not they have access to the internet. Since June 2018, 17,000 Arkansans lost their Medicaid coverage. Many worked but could not maintain the required hours; many others just could not comply with the reporting requirement. If all states implement work reporting for Medicaid, 1.4 million – 4 million will lose their medical care. A federal District Court ruled against similar work reporting in Kentucky, but the Trump Administration re-approved a very similar version of the program.

Will the President explain why the tax cut law he signed did not in fact result in bonuses or wage increases for the vast majority of workers, but did trigger massive corporate stock buybacks?

U.S. corporations have announced $853 billion in share repurchases in 2018, according to Americans for Tax Fairness. That’s over 120 times more than the $7.1 billion corporations have given their workers in bonuses or pay increases due to the tax law. The stock buybacks increase the value of the stock, to the considerable advantage of shareholders.

Will President Trump commit to never again shutting down the government, in order to avoid hardship for people receiving housing and food assistance, federal workers, and contract workers?

The President’s intransigence over the border wall led to 800,000 federal workers going without pay for 35 days, causing hardship for many. Maintenance and cafeteria staff working under contract in federal facilities may never regain the pay they lost. Many SNAP/food stamp households will have to wait about 50 days to receive their next SNAP installment, above the 40-day legal limit, meaning families will be running out of food. Contracts with landlords for affordable housing units with over 1,000 tenants were allowed to expire before the government shutdown, leaving their continued rent subsidy in question. Will the President announce he will never again force vulnerable people to be hostages in a funding dispute?