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The Human Toll of the Trump Budget

Five Americans describe how sweeping cuts that offer basic supports to help make ends meet will affect them

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Protesters in West Virginia in early February calling on Congress and the President to save programs like Medicaid and nutritional assistance. (Photo by Zahra Mion)

By Jeremy Slevin

With the ink barely dry on President Trump and Congressional Republicans’ tax bill, the President’s budget lays plain how they plan to pay for it — by slashing Medicaid, nutrition assistance, and other basic supports that help everyday Americans make ends meet.

For example, on top of yet again calling to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the White House’s recently released budget for this year includes over $300 billion in cuts to Medicaid, approximately $200 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Assistance Program (SNAP), $72 billion in cuts to Social Security for people with disabilities, and eliminates home heating assistance through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) altogether just weeks after the polar vortex. Meanwhile, the budget is a direct attack on public health, slashing funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by a whopping $2.8 billion this year alone.

While these numbers are staggering, they don’t begin to describe the human toll of these cuts. For millions Americans, these programs are there for them when they are struggling to make ends meet. For some, they are literally lifesaving.

Below are the stories of five Americans who would be harmed by these cuts:

Andraéa Lavant — Medicaid

Hyattsville, Maryland

As part of the one of five Americans living with a disability, I am happy to be gainfully employed. I am able to file and pay my taxes in a timely manner and can be considered a responsible adult. But this is only possible because I have the support I need to get out of bed each morning. And in order to continue being a productive member of society, I need Medicaid. At age two, I was diagnosed with a neuromuscular condition and am a full-time wheelchair user. This means that each day I need help to prepare for and conclude my day. This includes help getting out of bed, dressing, bathing, grooming, prepping my meals, and beyond. Fortunately, I get the help I need through Medicaid’s home and community-based services (HCBS), which enables me to live independently within my community and make a difference by helping people. Removing essential services like Medicaid is really removing freedom; it’s removing the freedom that this country is supposed to really stand on.

~

Marta Connor — Medicaid

Clifton, Virginia

My daughter, Caroline, is seven years old. She is funny and smart and obsessed with Disney princess movies and loves books about dinosaurs. Caroline also has Rett syndrome, a neurological disorder that interferes with her ability to control her body. She can’t talk, walk, or use her hands. Without Medicaid, I don’t know if we’d be able to afford treatment. For Caroline, this is a matter of life and death. Medicaid helps cover the cost of co-pays, treatments, medical equipment, and other expenses that our insurance doesn’t cover. Those out of pocket costs usually add up to about a couple thousand dollars a month. Without Medicaid, we wouldn’t be able to afford the hospital-grade equipment Caroline needs — like the cough assist machine, the nebulizer, the oxygen supplies, and the nursing staff. She used to spend several weeks in the intensive care unit almost every time she caught a cold. But because of Medicaid, and the medical equipment it helps cover, she only had one hospital visit last year.

~

Kendra Tappin — SNAP, TANF, CHIP

Washington, DC

After I finished graduate school, I didn’t have two nickels to rub together. I had no support system. There was no food in the fridge. As a pregnant woman, expecting twins, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) afforded my daughter’s and me health care at a most critical time in all of our lives. I had weekly appointments with specialists to make sure the girls were growing healthily, and that I would have a safe delivery. I had a regular appointment with a therapist, and it was vital to stave off things like depression and anxiety. I’m happy to share that like the ACA which this year celebrated seven years as the nation’s healthcare law, my daughters who are here today also celebrated their seventh birthday this year. I’m so glad and grateful because my life — our lives — is but one of the millions of successes of CHIP and the ACA. Though our lives have changed such that we no longer use SNAP, TANF, or housing assistance, these programs are vital for many, many people’s lives. We couldn’t be here today without them. Food Stamps didn’t just allow us to buy food to fill our bellies, but it allowed my daughters and me to eat, healthy and nutritious foods that were especially important to support nutrient needs for growing healthy young brains, minds, bodies, and immune systems.

~

Kelly McGovern — SNAP, Medicaid, LIHEAP

Rhode Island

A few years ago I found myself in a place I never expected: single motherhood. I had been out of the work force for 20 years and am still finding it difficult to make ends meet. Without SNAP, heating assistance and free school lunches for my children I am sure the three of us would be homeless — not to mention the life saver of the ACA. My children have both had serious bouts of Lyme Disease that could have been life threatening or debilitating without insurance. We have been saved by Medicaid. I am also very concerned about the cuts to art and education programs at public schools. This administration is causing anxiety to just about everyone I know. Even the well off are concerned about those who are less fortunate.

~

Nanda Sparks — Superfund sites

Joplin, Missouri

I am an educator and phlebotomist, and I’ve seen many kids with high levels of lead in their systems, including my own daughter. After the big E5 tornado came through Joplin in 2011, lead-contaminated soil from an old Superfund site was picked up and thrown around. Many children, including my grandson, experienced high levels of lead in their blood. A lack of EPA funding for cleanup would leave even more children in Joplin susceptible to high lead levels.

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