Trump Proposes Larger Holes in Safety Net for Low-Income People

The Trump administration says that it plans to reduce poverty in the U.S. by cutting, changing, or limiting a number of safety net programs designed to help low-income people. Claiming he wants “to get more people off government aid and into the workforce so they can become self-sufficient,” Trump says his various proposals will do this by “promoting opportunity and economic mobility” for those who live in poverty or are low-income.

One such item put in place by the Trump administration is a memorandum that calls on federal agencies to enforce a law that requires sponsors of green card holders to reimburse government agencies for cost of government benefits the sponsored immigrant has used. 

Though Trump insists this legislation will help immigrants to be “more self-sufficient,” Immigrant rights advocates say that the change is intended to discourage green card holders from applying for needed benefits; and also to restrict immigration, both legal and illegal.

A related proposal by the Department of Homeland Security would make it more difficult for immigrants to get green cards if they receive benefits such as SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or “food stamps”) or housing assistance. Immigrant rights advocates point out that this change would impact not only immigrants, but their family members who are already U.S. citizens. 

A pending proposal, ironically coming from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, would rescind a requirement for payday lenders to determine whether a potential borrower will have the ability to repay a requested loan. Because of easy availability of payday loans, many low-income people find themselves burdened with interest rates of up to 300 percent, and the inability to repay them. Often, they borrow more to repay earlier loans. 

Trump has also proposed stricter enforcement of the work requirement for low-income people to continue to be eligible for SNAP benefits. After three months of receiving SNAP benefits, able-bodied adults would be required to work, volunteer, or get job training for at least 20 hours a week. A related proposal that would impose work requirements for Medicaid recipients has been challenged in court.

An estimated 750,000 current SNAP recipients could lose their benefits because of the inability to find work or meet other requirements.

“They really are trying to use every agency to make life harder for people who are low-income,” says Elizabeth Lower-Basch, director of income and work supports at the Center for Law and Social Policy.

Other proposed pieces of legislation aimed at the safety net for those with low incomes include recalculation of the poverty line, and restriction of waiving the asset and income limits for SNAP eligibility.

Trump is fond of framing his proposed trashing of the safety net as a way to “help people help themselves.” He says he wants to ensure that taxpayer money is spent on “those who are truly in need.” 

But if one doesn’t have enough food, doesn’t have an address to list on a job application, or can’t get healthcare to remain healthy in order to work, isn’t that what it is to be “truly in need”? It seems ironic for a group of legislators who have never experienced poverty to make the determination that others who experience it daily, aren’t “low-income” enough to deserve help. 

Cuccinelli Unveils Trump Policy That Favors Wealthier Immigrants
Bloomberg [2019-08-12]

Why Trump’s new limit on food stamp eligibility will affect working families most | PBS NewsHour [2019-07-23]

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