Trump to Poor Americans: Get to Work or Lose Your Benefits

President Trump Proposes Sweeping Cuts to Anti-Poverty and Safety Net

A May 22, 2017, Washington Post article that previewed the budget released on May 23, 2017 by President Trump, gave the foreboding message “Trump to Poor Americans: Get to Work or Lose Your Benefits.”

Trump’s budget would “limit eligibility for food stamps and a host of other benefits as part of sweeping cuts to anti-poverty programs.” It does this through $274 billion in cuts over ten years.

The President’s budget adds a work requirement for able-bodied Americans who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the program known as food stamps. These able-bodied include Tim Keefe, an unemployed veteran.

“For a period last year after he lost his food stamps, Tim Keefe, an out-of-work and homeless Navy veteran, used his military training to catch, skin and eat squirrels, roasting the animals over an open fire outside the tent he pitched in frigid Augusta, Maine.”

Keefe was forced to eat squirrels after he lost his job and his food stamps. Maine required work from food stamp recipients.

“There were many times … when I would go two or even three days without food. If one was inclined to lose a lot of weight, I could recommend this diet wholeheartedly,” said Keefe when he testified to the Maine legislature

It is unconscionable to think about how many New Jerseyans, if President Trump’s proposed budget is passed, would fall into similar dire straits.

The anti-poverty and safety net cuts are layered on top of cuts to Medicaid and disability insurance – over $1 trillion over 10 years.

“Making low-income Americans work to qualify for so-called welfare programs is a key theme of the budget. ‘If you are on food stamps and you are able bodied, we need you to go to work,’ said budget director Mick Mulvaney during a White House briefing on Monday.”

“He said the strengthened requirements in the budget focuses on putting the 6.8 million unemployed or underemployed Americans back to work. ‘There is a dignity to work,’ he said, ‘and there’s a necessity to work to help the country succeed.’”

  • But what about those Americans have been injured on your job or have another disability that prevents you to work?
  • Or if you are a youth aging out of the foster care system with no education or job skills?
  • Or if you have recently been released with prison but have no support system or access to a job?
  • Will we just let them “fall through the cracks?

“Because SNAP benefits decrease gradually with increased income, there is no incentive for people to avoid work to get benefits — a phenomenon economists call the ‘welfare cliff.’ And benefits are too small for people to subsist on them without working: The average food stamp benefit was $465 a month for a family of four in 2015. Most people are on the program for between seven and nine months on average.”

Affordable housing advocates and providers have long seen that many low-income Americans who receive housing assistance do work.

“Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said the majority of Americans receiving housing subsidies are elderly, disabled or already include someone who works. Of the remaining households, nearly half include a preschool child or an older child or adult with a disability who needs the supervision of a caregiver.

“This is neither cost effective nor a solution to the very real issue of poverty impacting millions of families living in subsidized housing or in need,” Yentel said in a statement to the Post.

Trump to Poor Americans: Get to Work or Lose Your Benefits

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