Advocates for poor: Trump budget plan will make dire situation even worse

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 U.S. Budget Director Mick Mulvaney testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington Wednesday before the House Budget Committee hearing on President Donald Trump's fiscal 2018 federal budget. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

U.S. Budget Director Mick Mulvaney testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington Wednesday before the House Budget Committee hearing on President Donald Trump's fiscal 2018 federal budget. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Life could soon become harder for tens of thousands of low-income residents in the Delaware Valley.

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget calls for significant cuts to several entitlement programs, including TANF — what most people refer to as welfare.

Trump wants to slash nearly $22 billion from the Clinton-era program over the next decade. That includes eliminating the TANF Contingency Fund, used to help states weathering tough economic times.

If those cuts become a reality, it will be up to each state to decide how to shoulder the funding shortfall. In addition to cash assistance, welfare dollars are typically used to support a number of state programs aimed at helping the needy.

“There’s been a pretty substantial shift of money to child care to help working families cover those costs. There has been some shift to fund work programs. And then there is just sort of a lot of money that goes to smaller programs that really vary by state,” said LaDonna Pavetti, vice president of family income support policy at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan think tank.

It’s also not unusual for states to use TANF dollars to help pay for other budget items that would normally be covered by state funds, whether it’s a program tailored to help working class families or an allocation for a new bridge or road repairs.

Even so, cash assistance would likely be affected first — especially if all of Trump’s budget cuts become reality, said Pavetti. There would be too many holes to plug.

Advocates are outraged.

“TANF is already significantly underfunded, causing pregnant women, victims of domestic violence, and children to go without the help they desperately need. President Trump’s budget proposal takes a dire situation and makes it even worse,” said Louise Hayes, staff attorney with Community Legal Services in Philadelphia.

Chris Borick, director the Muhlenberg Institute of Public Opinion, said, politically, the cuts would create an ironic turn of events.

While it’s hard to say if TANF enrollees in the Delaware Valley voted for Trump, “you can say, that among individuals whose income is in the category that is eligible for assistance under the TANF program, Donald Trump did very well in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware,” said Borick.

Upwards of 200,000 residents in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware receive this assistance.

The average monthly payout for a parent and three children is roughly $400, a figure that’s remained flat since the program was created in 1996.

The Trump administration has said the cuts to TANF — a $16.5 billion a year program — and other “safety net” initiatives are needed to balance the budget and cut the deficit.

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