By Al Norman
On March 16, President Donald Trump sent over his federal fiscal year 2018 Budget Blueprint to Congress. It was the president’s first budget, and there were no real surprises in it.
It’s not really a budget at all; it’s more of a press release about what the president wants to see Congress produce for a budget. He is telling Congress what he likes – and more of what he doesn’t like. It’s called “skinny” because it contains very few hard details of what a budget would normally contain. But Congress can fill in the details.
Based on what little the president shared, the following impacts for Massachusetts can be deduced:
- Major cuts in Medicaid enrollment, a drop of 306,000 Medicaid enrollees by 2026 – mostly non-elders – due to the impact of the American Health Care Act;
- The loss of $140 million in fuel aid in FFY 18 – total elimination;
- $1.2 million in Older Americans Act funds for social services and meals in FFY 18;
- A loss of 81,317 in elder meals funding ($609,884) in FFY 18;
- Nearly $2 million in senior aide jobs in FFY 18 – program eliminated;
- $16.5 million in Community Services Block Grants used by cities and towns;
- The end of legal services corporation, and many other federal program noted below.
The Trump budget arrives at a time when Congress is not even finished with the federal FY 17 budget, and its Appropriations Committees will produce a final federal budget that may or not look much like the president’s plan. As in Massachusetts, the governor submits a House 1 budget document usually in late January, and then after five months of deliberations by the General Court, the final budget is produced – often very different than House 1. Presidents and governors can propose budgets, but it is Congress and the State Legislatures that actually write them. Budgets are predominately the work of the legislative branch of government, and the executive branch has veto power.
The President’s “blueprint” contains very few individual program line items, and many programs that affect the elderly – including funds for Older Americans Act and other aging programs within the Administration for Community Living (ACL) and Administration on Aging (AoA) – are not specifically mentioned.
The president does not outline any proposals for mandatory spending, such as Medicare and Social Security, or for federal revenue and tax proposals. He proposes funding the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), which houses the Administration for Community Living (ACL) and its Administration on Aging, at $65.1 billion. This is a $12.6 billion cut (16.2 percent) below current funding. $10 billion of this overall cut to DHHS comes from rolling back recent funding increases for the National Institutes of Health and from eliminating other block-grant programs. That would leave a cut of around 3.34 percent to make in other DHHS programs. If those cuts were made equally across Older Americans Act programs, the state would lose around $1.21 million Older Americans Act-related federal funds. Massachusetts gets $10.1 million for social services under the Older Americans Act. A 3.34 percent cut in these OAA funds would result in a loss of $337,340. The state receives $18.26 million for the elderly meals program – both at congregate meal sites and home-delivered meals. A 3.34 percent cut in meals funding would result in a loss of $609,884 in nutrition funding, or a loss of roughly 81,317 meals in FFY 2018.
The President’s “skinny” numbers leaves a pile of bones for the low-income people of America.