COMMENTARY: Texas children’s safety net fraying under Trump’s budget plan


In recent decades, America’s children have made notable gains in health and education, and seen reductions in poverty and childhood involvement with the criminal justice system. But our children are still struggling in many ways, and in some cases the gains of the past have come to a halt. We should be rededicated to pushing forward on children’s health, well-being and education. Instead, our leaders are pulling apart the child safety net thread

by thread.

Last month, President Donald Trump released his budget, representing his vision for America and for the families and communities who will be affected by federal funding decisions. Unfortunately, that vision is deeply out of touch with the lives of working Americans, and his plans would have devastating consequences for those struggling every day to make ends meet.

The administration’s 2019 Budget Proposal includes dramatic cuts to programs that provide services for vulnerable children and families such as food and housing assistance programs, as well as deep cuts to education and health care. On the heels of a giant tax cut that unfairly benefits the wealthy and corporations, this budget reflects the misguided priorities of the current administration, pitting the wealthy against those who already have very little. These cuts are especially ominous for Texas children, given that 22 percent of our children were living in poverty in 2016, with

24 percent in food-insecure households in 2015, and over 4.6 million children relying on children’s Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) in 2016.

In 2017, Congress and the administration attempted to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) multiple times, each time failing because Americans made clear that they want and need the peace of mind and security of health insurance. Today, more Texas children than ever have health coverage. But these gains are tenuous. The administration worked hard last year to sabotage ACA enrollment and the president’s 2019 budget doubles down on further attempts to gut the ACA and Medicaid, threatening the health care of millions.

Critical health care and social services that support families are targeted for unprecedented cuts in Trump’s budget proposal. We are especially concerned about the way the budget proposes to undermine the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which helps low-income families buy fresh, healthy food at their local markets. The most shocking part of the plan is to replace SNAP benefits with non-perishable food, like canned beans and peanut butter. This proposed transition from a system where families shop locally, buying the food that best meets their needs to a government-selected and distributed “ration” box is further evidence of the administration’s lack of respect for individuals and families.

Needing food, health or housing assistance is not a moral failing in a world where wages are stagnant and the minimum wage is only $7.25 per hour. It takes nearly double that amount to meet the basic expenses of housing, food, transportation and health care in most Texas cities.

Federal programs like SNAP are proven investments in the well-being of families and have powerful ripple effects in local economies. Cutting these programs is both economically and morally indefensible.

The many social programs that are cut or neglected in the president’s budget help improve the lives of millions of children and families every day. Health coverage, food programs, transportation assistance, school-based services and many other programs give American families the support they need to move out of poverty. In Texas it’s already very difficult for people to access these supportive programs, and the result is that the percentage of Texans living in poverty, including children, remains far too high. The budget cuts put forth by the Trump administration are contradictory to the goals of having a healthy and well educated society. If passed, vulnerable children and families in Texas and across the nation will suffer.