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Congressional Budgets Target Children for Cuts
Ed Walz (Former Staff)Child Abuse & Neglect Education Federal Budget Health Housing & Homelessness Nutrition
Washington – A new analysis by the bipartisan children’s advocacy organization First Focus shows that federal budget proposals scheduled for floor votes in both chambers of Congress this week would cut investments in children’s health, nutrition, and other priorities.
“Yes, the federal government has budget problems. But children didn’t create them, and making it harder for children to get food, health care, housing and an education is the wrong way to solve them,” said First Focus president Bruce Lesley.
Both the House and Senate budget proposals would convert Medicaid into a block grant, cutting funding in the process – the Senate by $400 billion over ten years, and the House by more than $900 billion. Medicaid provides health care for more than 31 million children. A 2012 First Focus analysis shows how block-granting Medicaid would be particularly harmful for children, subjecting them to rationing of coverage and care. As an “entitlement,” Medicaid guarantees coverage for eligible individuals, including children and pregnant women, without a requirement for annual congressional appropriations. A block grant would replace this guarantee with annual allotments to states that fail to adjust for population growth, economic changes, public health crises, or natural disasters. States would also be responsible for covering costs above the federal allotment, or would be forced to constrain coverage or care for children and other residents.
The House proposal would also convert the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) to a block grant and cut $125 billion between 2021 and 2025. Half of Americans receiving nutrition assistance through SNAP are children. A recent paper by PolicyLab at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found that SNAP mitigated increases in childhood hunger during the recession, by responding to increased need during the recession and contracting as an improving economy reduced need. PolicyLab Co-Director Dr. David Rubin cautioned that “millions of children are still struggling, and so we risk stalling or even reversing recovery by making budget and program cuts too soon.”
The Senate proposal is less specific – proposing only to cut “mandatory” spending initiatives like SNAP, Social Security, and Medicare, which are not subject to annual congressional appropriations, by $4.3 trillion over 10 years. To put that cut in perspective, the entire federal budget for 2013 was about $3.45 trillion.
Both proposals would also lower funding caps on education, housing, child abuse and neglect prevention and response, nutrition for babies, pediatric disease research, and other important investments in children. Funding for this “non-defense discretionary” budget category in 2016 would already be $103 billion lower than in 2010. While both plans maintain the non-defense discretionary funding cap in 2016, both propose consistent cuts beginning in 2017 reaching 33 percent for the House and 24 percent for the Senate by 2025.
“We can’t build a stronger tomorrow for America’s children by denying them the things they need to succeed today,” said Lesley.
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First Focus is a bipartisan advocacy organization dedicated to making children and families the priority in federal policy and budget decisions. For more information, visit www.firstfocus.org.