Trump Budget Would Harm the Neediest LGBTQ Americans

Homeless person

Donald Trump’s proposed 2020 budget, unveiled this week, includes cuts that would greatly hurt LGBTQ Americans and people with HIV, according to activists and political observers.

Cuts to housing programs, for instance, would have an ill effect on LGBTQ people, who rely on federal assistance for housing more so than the general public, ThinkProgress reports. The budget “includes a $8.6 billion cut for the Department of Housing and Urban Development and proposes eliminating the Community Development Block Grant program and capital improvement funds for public housing repairs,” according to the site.

LGBTQ people and their families utilized public housing assistance at 2.5 times the rate of non-LGBTQ Americans, a 2017 study by the Center for American Progress found. Transgender people had an even greater reliance on such assistance — they received it at five times the rate of cisgender people. And LGBTQ youth have a high rate of homelessness; they represent about 40 percent of homeless young people.

Cuts to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, once known as food stamps, would likewise disproportionately affect LGBTQ people. Trump proposes cutting spending by $17.4 billion in the 2020 fiscal year and $220 billion over the next decade, eventually reducing the program by one-third. The administration also, using a federal rule-making process rather than legislation, wants to further restrict SNAP eligibility, “curtailing states’ flexibility to help jobless or underemployed workers in hard-hit regions,” according to a Center for American Progress analysis published this week. In its 2017 survey, the center had found that that LGBTQ people and their families used SNAP benefits at twice the rate of straight and cisgender people.

Trump further seeks to cut Medicaid, Medicare, and spending for HIV and AIDS services. Medicaid, a joint federal-state program that funds health care for low-income people without private insurance, would see reductions of about $777 billion over the next 10 years, Vox reports. “Trump is envisioning changing Medicaid altogether; his budget proposes transforming the current pay-as-needed system to a block grant, where states are given a capped lump-sum fund that doesn’t grow with increased need or rising costs,” the site notes. The budget further calls for tightening work requirements and repealing the Medicaid expansion that was part of the Affordable Care Act.

For Medicare, the federal health insurance program for older Americans, the administration proposes $845 billion in cuts over the coming decade, although it contends these are actually not cuts to benefits, but savings to be realized by lower drug prices, a crackdown on waste and fraud, and shifting of programs to other parts of the government, according to Vox. But in the case of Medicaid, “the intent is unambiguous: These are cuts to benefits,” the site reports.

Many people living with HIV rely on Medicaid. Additionally, there’s the matter of cuts to HIV and AIDS programs, which contradict Trump’s promise from the State of the Union address to end the epidemic by 2030.

His budget allocates $291 million toward that effort but seeks to slash international programs — $250 million from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, and $1.5 billion from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a program started by President George W. Bush. It calls for a cut of $6 billion for health research at the National Institutes of Health.

“LGBTQ Americans were right to be skeptical about President Trump’s pledge to end HIV and AIDS and [the] budget revealed the truth: This administration is not serious about this fight,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO at GLAAD, in a press release. “Actions always speak louder than words, and the Trump administration once again proved to people living with HIV — which includes LGBTQ Americans — that they simply cannot trust this president to do anything more than pay lip service.”

Daniel Tietz, former CEO of Bailey House, which provides supportive housing for people with HIV, told ThinkProgress that all the proposed cuts would be devastating. “Housing is health care, but they propose a $63 million cut to [Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS],” he said. “Food is health care and yet they propose to cut SNAP benefits or condition SNAP and Medicaid on work in ways that really turn people off of their health care, so who will pay then? They propose giving some of this money to community health centers and that’s a great thing, but many of these community health centers already live in the edge of insolvency and particularly in states that have not expanded Medicaid, the very states that they’re targeting.”

The silver lining is that the president can only propose a budget — Congress has the power to approve it or not. “Congress ultimately decides what money to spend, and Trump’s proposal is not likely to get through Capitol Hill,” CNBC notes. “Still, a budget represents a president’s priorities even if it may not ultimately impact Americans’ lives.”

Forbes contributor Ben Ritz summed up the Trump budget priorities thus: “The Trump administration’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget proposal is a compilation of the worst ideas to come out of the Republican Party over the last decade. It would dismantle public investments that lay the foundation for economic growth, resulting in less innovation. It would shred the social safety net, resulting in more poverty. It would rip away access to affordable healthcare, resulting in more disease. It would cut taxes for the rich, resulting in more income inequality. It would bloat the defense budget, resulting in more wasteful spending. And all this would add up to a higher national debt than the policies in President Obama’s final budget proposal.”

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