The 2018 federal budget that was introduced by President Donald Trump, and that members of the Long Island congressional delegation will have to debate with their colleagues in Washington in the weeks to come is void of compassion and understanding about nearly 10-percent of the population on Long Island who struggle with food insecurity and live at the current federal poverty level or more than 200% over the level. Seniors, single mothers, working poor, infants and children, people with disabilities, and our disabled veterans will all see reductions to many of the safety net programs and services that are dependent upon to live at a basic quality of life.
The Trump administration is seeking to cut 21 percent of the Agriculture Department’s discretionary spending budget, though it hasn’t detailed what precisely will be cut. The vulnerable programs include rural development and research grants but exclude SNAP (food stamps) and crop subsidies. This is actually good news for the nation’s regional food banks like Long Island Cares because we can expect that crop subsidies will result in additional food commodities being made available to the emergency food assistance program (TEFAP) which we administer for the Long Island Region. But spending reductions to Women, Infant and Children’s nutrition assistance is going to jeopardize the health of many young parents and children in communities that are already at high risk.
A proposed elimination of $3 billion to the Community Development Block Grant Program that supports Meals on Wheels and local grants to nonprofit organizations to provide vital community services to vulnerable populations will also jeopardize the health and safety of our seniors, disabled, veterans, and working families. If you take away meals on wheels for instance, seniors who are homebound will struggle to eat healthy and will experience an increase in illness and isolation. Part of the meals on wheels approach or the Long Island Cares Mobile Pantry Program is to also provide companion care to seniors living alone. By visiting seniors in their homes you can also assess if they have other needs like accessing their medications, making home repairs, or checking up on them in inclement weather. These are things that experts like Secretary Dr. Ben Carson should already know about since the cuts will come from his Department of HUD.
Eliminating after-school nutrition and education programs, reducing Medicaid and transferring responsibility to the states to fund this service will only result in inequality across the nation depending upon where a person lives, and on Long Island it’s highly unlikely that local government can absorb any additional state or federal mandates that have already crippled Nassau and Suffolk County.
So the lines are now drawn and it’s going to be up to all of us to let our Congressional delegation know where we stand when it comes to taking care of our neighbors in need and preserving some form of social safety net. At the height of the 2009 recession many on Long Island were one paycheck away from having to go to a food pantry for help. Unemployment has improved and some people are spending more today than a few years ago but private donations cannot make up for the cuts in funding that the Trump budget proposes. Our elected officials are going to have to fight for what they believe their districts wants and I don’t believe that turning their backs on the poor is something they want to do.
March 20, 2017