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Proposed USDA Cuts Slash Programs for the Poor

President Trump's preliminary budget proposal trims $200 million from the WIC program, a nutrition program for low-income mothers and children. (USDA/Flickr)
President Trump's preliminary budget proposal trims $200 million from the WIC program, a nutrition program for low-income mothers and children. (USDA/Flickr)
March 17, 2017

NEW YORK - President Trump's proposed budget is being called a "war on people in poverty" by some in New York.

The administration's spending plan would slash the U.S. Department of Agriculture by $4.7 billion, a 21 percent cut. By cutting or eliminating programs that help poor and middle-income rural Americans, said Joel Berg, chief executive of the group Hunger Free America, Trump would be hurting voters who were instrumental in putting him in office.

"He's cutting rural economic-development programs, food programs, programs that bring fresh water to rural areas, which will mean local taxpayers will have to pick up the tab and pay more," said Berg, who held senior executive service positions in the USDA for eight years during the Clinton administration.

The Trump administration has said the proposed budget supports "critical" USDA activities while streamlining or eliminating redundant and lower-priority programs.

Berg said rural communities wouldn't be the only areas to suffer. He noted that the proposal calls for deep cuts or total elimination of programs such as the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program that help poor families everywhere.

"Countless New Yorkers depend on that subsidy to be able to pay their heating bills in winter and cooling bills in the summer," he said, "and given summer temperatures, air conditioning isn't a luxury anymore - particularly for seniors and children. It's survival."

The plan also called for cutting Community Services Block Grants, which fund food banks, Meals on Wheels and other food programs. Berg said Trump also wants to eliminate the AmeriCorps National Service Program.

"A program that says you don't get a penny unless you work and you get money to help pay for your college education, whether you're middle class or low-income, or of any income background," he said. "This is something that should be supported by all Americans, not eliminated."

While the president has said SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, won't be cut, the plan doesn't specify where more than three-quarters of the total proposed cuts would be made.

The budget proposal is online at whitehouse.gov.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY