The Trump Plan to Cut Benefit Programs Threatens Children
Kelly is a Pennsylvania mother of two young boys. Kelly grew up in a family that did not earn enough to cover their basic needs, and as a child, she knew what it was like to go to school hungry and to not be able to see a doctor when she was sick. As a mother, Kelly works tirelessly to ensure that her sons can grow up with more than she had when she was young: She worked full time as a restaurant server for more than a decade and now works as a receptionist at a local barbershop. Despite picking up extra shifts, working on weekends, and returning to work shortly after the births of her sons, she has struggled to make ends meet. Like millions of other working parents, Kelly has turned to programs that help her meet her family’s most basic needs. Thanks to Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Kelly’s sons are healthy and thriving.1
Young children under age 6 are more likely than any other age group to be poor, with nearly one-quarter of children living in poverty and nearly half living in low-income families.2 Children are also the largest age cohort participating in public benefit programs such as SNAP, Medicaid, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and research shows that these programs that help families meet their basic needs are effective at lifting families like Kelly’s out of poverty and promoting child well-being.3 When benefit programs such as nutrition assistance, Medicaid, and tax credits are taken into consideration, the child poverty rate in the United States is reduced by half.4
Reducing poverty and providing access to the basics such as food, housing, and medical care is of the utmost importance for young children. Research shows that poverty has deep and lasting negative effects on child development by introducing stressors that affect the foundations of brain architecture as they are being laid. Much like a house needs a solid, well-constructed foundation, children’s developing brains require a strong base.5 Programs such as Medicaid and CHIP, SNAP and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), TANF, housing assistance, LIHEAP, tax credits, and Supplemental Security Income should be understood as smart, evidence-informed policies that give children a promising start in life.
Unfortunately, instead of addressing the needs of low-income and middle-class families through policies such as paid leave, child care, and increasing the minimum wage, the Trump administration and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) are pushing for deep cuts to programs that help families afford the basics, all to pay for a $1.5 trillion tax cut that largely benefits wealthy individuals and corporations.6 In addition to cutting funding for these programs, President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress are poised to increase barriers to accessing benefit programs through increasing administrative burdens and imposing work requirements.