Trump's 'Skinny Budget' Sows Uncertainty For Disability Programs

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Deep cuts to domestic spending outlined in a budget plan released by the White House this week could have big implications for people with developmental disabilities.

The White House Office of Management and Budget unveiled a 62-page so-called “skinny budget” on Thursday offering a look at the Trump administration’s fiscal priorities for 2018.

The proposal calls for substantial increases in defense and homeland security spending and funding for a wall along the border with Mexico coupled with broad domestic cuts touching everything from education to medical research, housing and transportation programs.

“We are going to do more with less, and make the government lean and accountable to the people,” President Donald Trump wrote in a note accompanying the plan.

The budget blueprint includes a 17.9 percent chop to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 13 percent less for the Department of Education, a 13.2 percent reduction in Department of Housing and Urban Development spending and a decrease of 21 percent for the Department of Labor.

“Given that people with disabilities rely on non-defense discretionary programs much more than defense, homeland security and veterans funding, having such a huge cut in (non-defense discretionary programs) funding will have a devastating impact on the programs people with disabilities use and rely on to work, receive an education (and) live in the community,” said David Card of the National Disability Rights Network.

Trump’s plan “refocuses” the Labor Department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, “eliminating less critical technical assistance grants and launching an early intervention demonstration project to allow states to test and evaluate methods that help individuals with disabilities remain attached to or reconnect to the labor market.”

Details are scant regarding how the proposed cutbacks in domestic funding would affect many other programs serving people with developmental disabilities.

The president’s proposal represents a first step in the budget process and any spending plan would need approval from Congress.

One area that’s not on Trump’s chopping block, however, is special education. The budget blueprint “maintains approximately $13 billion in funding” for programs under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Nonetheless, advocates say, it’s too early to tell what that might mean given the limited information in the skinny budget.

“Is the funding flat in total for (IDEA) Part C, 619, Part B and Part D, or is the funding flat for just Part B and are the other elements of the law cut? We won’t know until the more formal budget comes out in May,” said Katy Beh Neas, executive vice president for public affairs at Easterseals.

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