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Anti-Poverty Groups Call on Congress to Save Safety Net

Hunger-fighting groups point out that food insecurity among Ohioans hasn't improved significantly since the end of the Great Recession. (Adobe Stock)
Hunger-fighting groups point out that food insecurity among Ohioans hasn't improved significantly since the end of the Great Recession. (Adobe Stock)
February 17, 2020

COLUMBUS, Ohio - With the U.S. House and Senate in recess this week, poverty-fighting groups in Ohio are hopeful the state's congressional leaders will hear their calls to save crucial safety-net programs.

The White House released its $4.8 trillion executive budget last week. Trump's budget plan would cut Temporary Assistance for Needy Families by $20 billion and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or 'SNAP' by $182 billion, both over ten years.

Joree Novotny, director of external affairs with the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, says it would slash funding for multiple programs that help low-income families and seniors meet their basic needs.

"Food programs are under attack, health-care programs are under attack, housing programs are under attack," says Novotny. "Basic cash assistance programs are under attack. Any funding that helps lift up the most vulnerable families, in Ohio and across the country, is threatened by this budget."

The budget proposal also would eliminate the Social Services Block Grant, which states use to fund anti-poverty programs, and would cut federal spending on Medicare by $750 billion over the next decade.

The White House claims its plan would close the budget deficit in 15 years, while reducing costs and improving efficiency of government programs.

Trump's budget plan makes the 2017 tax cuts permanent, which Novotny contends largely benefited wealthy individuals and corporations. The President is claiming that the economy is "the best it's ever been," but Novotny counters that not everyone is benefiting.

"We're not seeing anything in our hunger-relief network that tells us that things are a whole lot better for those who are at the bottom of the food chain, so to speak," says Novotny. "We are seeing the same number of people coming to our food pantry network as we have, basically, since the end of the Great Recession."

Some analysts say the budget plan is essentially "dead on arrival," because it won't be taken seriously by congressional leaders. But Novotny says it shouldn't be taken lightly, noting the Trump administration has proposed similar program changes and reductions through regulatory action.

"Even if these proposals aren't ultimately implemented by Congress, it's very likely that the administration will intend to try to figure out other ways and other means to circumvent the will of Congress and implement these cuts," says Novotny.

Novotny is hopeful Ohio's congressional delegation will focus on ways to protect and strengthen programs for vulnerable Ohioans, instead of dismantling the safety net.

Disclosure: Ohio Association of Foodbanks contributes to our fund for reporting on Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Livable Wages/Working Families, Poverty Issues, Welfare Reform. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH