BREANNA WIERSMA; Copy Editor; firstname.lastname@example.org
Last month, the White House released a first budget proposal for the 2018 year. Called the “America First” budget, the proposal cuts 1.2% of overall discretionary spending compared to the 2017 budget and internally reallocates billions of dollars, most notably to a $52.3 billion increase in defense spending. While this budget has been proposed, it is still under review.
It’s kind of a nightmare.
When the budget was first released, I immediately searched for the ways it would affect me.
For students, the potential changes in the federal budget will shift financial aid, particularly for students whose families make less than $40,000 a year. The budget proposes “significantly reduced” funding for federal work study and the elimination of the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), a grant for students from low-income families. The proposal calls these programs “poorly targeted,” but this includes no mention of or allocated funds for new programs for supporting low-income college students.
As someone who depends on the FSEOG to pay for college, I’m so frustrated to see this program on the cut list with so little justification. Saying simply that it’s “poorly targeted,” with no reference to other materials that illustrate this or money set aside for an alternative program, does nothing to support students like me who need these programs to go to school.
Spaces of community learning across the country face similarly frustrating cuts. The elimination of the National Endowment of the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities brings with them cuts to organizations like the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
This attack on budgets for community spaces hurts Americans across the board. This could mean fees or limited services for everyone who uses these facilities. However, these changes are detrimental for low-income people, who depend more on the services these community spaces provide.
This reminded me that while this budget would make my life harder as a college student from a low-income family, it could be terrifying for others. While I’m frustrated about the prospect of museum fees or limited library hours, I know that there are people in my communities who depend on the library for internet and information access.
This isn’t just about libraries, either. Meals on Wheels, which brings food to seniors and people with disabilities, and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program both face elimination. The budget states that LIHEAP is a “lower-impact program,” but fails to solve the problem it creates by leaving money behind for a higher-impact program or pointing to other resources for Americans who need assistance staying warm.
All the talk in the world about “lower-impact programs” won’t change the fact that people depend on these services. We absolutely can’t just cut them and hope that communities figure it out.
It is entirely unreasonable to suggest that these changes put Americans first — they’re hardly promising for any of us, and especially detrimental for our most vulnerable populations. We can’t support the people who rely most on us by pulling out programs from under them, and our communities don’t benefit when we fail to give community services structure and support.