Programs for seniors and the working poor would be substantially cut under President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, while spending for the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs would increase, according to an analysis by AARP.
On behalf of AARP’s 38 million members, AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond sent a letter to Trump on Friday, expressing her disappointment.
“AARP requests that the administration not pay for additional defense spending by simply reducing all other federal discretionary spending,” LeaMond wrote. “With very few exceptions, non-defense discretionary accounts which serve seniors are already funded at historically low levels.”
The budget focuses only on discretionary spending and does not address taxes or mandatory spending, and therefore does not cover Medicare and Social Security. The full budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, which could tackle broader spending details on those programs, is not expected until later this spring.
Among the programs the president proposes to eliminate:
- $3 billion in Community Services Block Grants and $1.2 billion in Community Development Block Grants, money that some localities use to support the popular Meals on Wheels program. An AARP-funded study in 2015 found that the meals program provides psychological benefits to seniors on top of helping them stay in their homes.
- The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which provides short-term aid to pay heating and cooling bills for 6.7 million people. Nearly one-third of households receiving assistance have a member who is age 60 or older.
- The Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), which helps older low-income Americans find jobs. SCSEP participants provide over 40 million hours of community service as they receive on-the-job training.
- Health professions education and nursing training programs, at a time when the nation faces a shortage of nurses.
- Support for Amtrak’s long-distance train service, which the administration claims is inefficient and responsible for most of system’s operating losses. Older travelers make up as much as two-thirds of long-distance riders.
The administration also suggests it would be reforming the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s rental assistance program. Seniors account for 1 in 6 of those now receiving this aid.
LeaMond told the president she was pleased that he continues to pledge not to make cuts to Medicare and Social Security in keeping with his campaign promise to protect those programs.
“Unfortunately, some Congressional leaders have discussed plans to fundamentally change the Medicare program and undermine the contract made with generations of Americans,” she wrote. These proposals would raise the age of eligibility for Medicare and shift more of the risk and cost of health care onto individuals.
LeaMond added that AARP is willing to work with the president to oppose attempts to cut Medicare.