Monday, March 20 marked the first 60 days of President Donald Trump’s administration. For numerous families across the country, those 60 days have brought harrowing times, as they seek stability and safety.
At the end of January, Trump’s Muslim travel ban engendered mass confusion among families at airports trying to reconnect with detained relatives. Critics called the ban unconstitutional. Next came Trump’s directive to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to ramp up arrests of undocumented immigrants.
That led to federal agents going so far as to stake out a church homeless shelter and round up Latino clients and apprehend a father dropping his children off at school in front of his sobbing daughter.
The challenges facing similarly marginalized groups during the new administration have only just begun. For low-income Americans, to whom Trump promised jobs, better health care and enhanced economic opportunity, indications so far are that his administration intends to deliver the exact opposite. For example:
Since Inauguration Day: What’s Been Done
Republicans lawmakers, who control both houses of Congress, overturned regulations governing school accountability. The regulations clarify school responsibilities under the Every Student Succeeds Act (which replaced No Child Left Behind) by determining what information must be placed on school report cards, specifying the definition of “consistently underperforming,” and establishing timelines by which state administrators must act to rehabilitate underperforming schools.
While Republicans dismissed the regulations as yet another example of executive overreach by the Obama administration, Democrats and civil rights advocates charged they were critical to protecting rights and ensuring robust educational services for poor students, especially youth of color.
Congressional Republicans also voted to discontinue an executive order that sought to make it harder for companies with a known history of exploiting workers to earn federal contracts – a move which signaled that practices like wage theft are now acceptable.
Since Inauguration Day: What’s Been Proposed
After eight years of waiting to chip away at the legacy of President Barack Obama, Congressional Republicans are poised to do just that. They have elected to start with Obama’s seminal legislative victory: the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Enacted in 2010, the ACA attempted to make health care more affordable through the distribution of subsidies based on income and the expansion of Medicaid with 20 million Americans gaining coverage under the law.
Republicans, though, have introduced a plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Their plan, the American Health Care Act, calls for the allocation of tax credits based on age instead of subsidies based on income; the discontinuation of Medicaid expansion by 2020; and the revocation of taxes and mandates that included incentives with coverage and paid for the program’s expansion of coverage.
As observers have said, this will have potentially disastrous consequences for low-income Americans. Tax credits that increase with age instead of income will provide less assistance to poor Americans.
The dismantling of Medicaid is two-fold: the plan not only calls for an end to the program’s expansion but for a retraction as well. Federal funding to Medicaid would gain new limitations under the Republican plan, potentially making millions of low-income Americans who once relied on Medicaid for their health care ineligible.
Before the Affordable Care Act became law, analysts voiced concerns that expensive health care costs in the U.S. could actually push families into bankruptcy. Because of the high costs, many Americans skipped preventative health care visits. Instead, some went to emergency rooms, which are expensive to operate, when conditions became serious and life threatening.
Low-income women are disadvantaged by the Republican plan, which proposes ending funding for Planned Parenthood for a year. It also terminates a federal rule that requires insurance plans to offer maternity care coverage. The former would deprive low-income women of a reliable source of affordable care. The latter could force women who plan on having children to purchase special options, which could be expensive, especially for the poor.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates implementing the Republican plan will lead to 14 million more uninsured Americans by 2018. That number is expected to rise to 24 million uninsured Americans by 2026.
Meanwhile, there is a proposed policy change about child care costs, which are crucial to working families. One idea under the Trump administration is for child care benefits to take the form of tax deductions instead of tax credits. Such a change, analysts say, would benefit wealthy Americans more than low-income Americans.
Those with incomes so low that they do not pay income taxes, or more than one-third of Americans, would receive no benefit under the proposal.
Post 60 Days: What’s to Come
President Trump’s call for Americans to “get off welfare and get back to work” and Congressional Republicans’ appeals for state “flexibility” and “streamlined” federal assistance could mean tougher times for the social safety net, which many low-income Americans rely on for stability and to take the steps to leave poverty.
Look for tightened eligibility requirements for welfare, especially those related to employment status, and for federal funding to states for welfare programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Medicaid to shrink or take the form of block grants.
The Trump administration’s budget proposals are public at his 60-day mark. Already, threats to poor families are emerging. For many families and community leaders in the country, there are deep concerns about cuts to public education, transportation programs and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
This includes the potential elimination of the $3-billion Community Development Block Grant program, which Meals on Wheels and other supports to poor families.
The administration, according to media reports, is considering cutting $6 billion from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to the detriment of low-income Americans.
Public housing, community development programs and other programs that help low-income communities afford housing are all in danger of losing money.
Look for Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson to potentially support these cuts. During his first speech to HUD, Carson spoke of “a duty to enhance fairness for everyone.”
Then, he raised eyebrows after claiming there would be “no extras for anybody,” hinting that civil rights protections for the marginalized are unnecessary.
Also on the chopping block under the possible Trump budget is the Legal Services Corporation, a program that helps low-income Americans find and pay for legal representation.
While candidate Trump promised to protect workers’ employment, the Republican Congress has decided to end regulations designed to defend them against wage theft. While candidate Trump promised Americans universal health care, the Republican Congress has offered a plan that undoes many existing benefits.
While candidate Trump promised low-income Americans he would make the economy work for them, his administration might, instead, deprive them of the economic safety net that provides stability for progress to take root.
For many poor Americans, the story of the Trump administration is turning into one of broken promises.
Ebony Slaughter-Johnson is an Equal Voice News contributor and freelance writer based in the Washington, D.C. area. She is a former researcher for the Institute for Policy Studies and graduate of Princeton University. Her work has appeared in Salon, U.S. News & World Report and Common Dreams. About the top image: President Donald Trump speaks at a Nashville, Tenn. rally on March 15. AP Photo by Mark Humphrey
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