On Tuesday the President released his blueprint for the federal budget. At Voices for Ohio’s Children, we are very concerned that these proposals, if enacted, would roll back progress in child well-being in Ohio and leave many more kids sick, hungry, and struggling in school. The President’s budget would slash commitments to children and families instead of recommending new and sustained investments in their health and well-being. Meanwhile, it does nothing to truly address costs; it just shifts more responsibility to the states and Ohio taxpayers. The consequences of his proposals would be cumulative because even if funding is restored in the future, the repercussions of cuts made now in preventative healthcare, education, nutrition, and other essential supports will be felt for years to come.
Our first major concern is healthcare and the millions who would lose coverage under this budget, which not only assumes the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but also cuts at least $610 billion from Medicaid and slashes funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) by 20 percent —leaving families with no other options for affordable coverage. The budget would also permanently overhaul Medicaid, imposing block grants or per capita caps that would leave our health care safety net in tatters, taking coverage away from the most vulnerable Ohians. These deep cuts to Medicaid and CHIP put more than 1.2 million Ohio kids at risk who depend on these programs for their care. And with the loss of coverage comes the inability to get check-ups, immunizations, preventive care, and doctor-recommended services, including screenings for vision and oral health. But this goes beyond the regular check-ups that kids need to grow up healthy. These cuts threaten life-saving care for kids with heart conditions and other disabilities. They could bankrupt families who are working to help their children with Down syndrome and other special needs live independent lives. And it’s not just children—seniors in nursing homes, as well as those struggling to live independently in their homes, will pay the price. It even takes life-saving coverage away from people with severe disabilities, and cuts mental health programs along with efforts to combat the opioid crisis.
In addition to healthcare, the President’s proposal would cut funding for the SNAP program (formerly food stamps) by 25 percent. In Ohio, more than 84 percent of all SNAP participants are children, seniors or people living with disabilities.
This budget would also prepare fewer children for school, eliminate programs that help them do better academically, and make it harder for them to go to college by level-funding the Child Care and Development Block Grant; diverting $1.2 billion previously allocated to the 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) program; reducing work-study funding by two-thirds; and ending the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) program.
These cuts do not represent a foundation for American greatness. In fact, it is the very programs that are the targets of these cuts that make the American Dream possible. We have seen this first-hand at Voices in the experience of Amber, a young, single mom who interned in our office. Amber’s eldest son suffers from severe asthma, which necessitates regular check-ups, five different medications, and emergency care from time to time. Without the health coverage of CHIP, Amber would have never been able to pay for her son’s care. In addition to CHIP, it was afterschool programs for her kids and college grants that enabled Amber to go back to school, finish her degree, and land a good job that supports her family.
Overwhelmingly, research has shown that basic supports like Medicaid and SNAP do exactly what they were designed to do and more. Children who have health insurance through Medicaid do better than children in similar families that don’t have it: they are healthier, miss less school, are more likely to finish high school, attend college and graduate from college, be healthier as adults, and earn more as adults. Children whose families benefit from SNAP are more likely to be in good health, develop normally for their age, avoid hospitalization, do better in school, and graduate from high school than children in similar families without SNAP. Afterschool programs improve school behavior and attendance, increase academic achievement, expose kids to STEM opportunities, promote health and wellness, and help working parents keep their jobs.
These programs work. But, they won’t if we cut them. And, Ohio taxpayers and private charities simply do not have the funding or capacity to step in and fill the void.
We call on Congress to reject the President’s proposed cuts to the safety net that has been a lifeline for Ohio kids and their families who have no where else to turn, and instead establish robust investments in programs that keep kids healthy and help them learn and grow.