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FPWA Report: Trump budget means deep cuts for New York City seniors

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A new report from the FPWA analyzes how federal budget cuts proposed by Donald Trump would affect seniors in New York City. (Illustration by Zach Williams/ NYN Media)

A new report details how deep cuts to social spending proposed by President Donald Trump would leave many New York City seniors poor, hungry and lonely.

That is because about one-fifth of the $372 million budget for the city Department for the Aging depends on more than a dozen federal grants, according to a budget analysis released by the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies on March 15. About $27 million in total would stop flowing through the city bureaucracy towards nonprofits that do everything from run senior centers to deliver food – in addition to reductions in federal hunger, housing and healthcare programs.

“These harmful cuts could worsen economic prospects for older New Yorkers, many of whom already live on a modest fixed income, and whose population is growing rapidly,” reads the report.

About a fifth of the city’s approximately one million seniors live in poverty with just over half living off of an income of under $36,240 per year. They stand to lose federal support primarily through reductions in five grant programs that make up about three-fourths of total federal funding for DFTA, according to the report. 

Trump’s budget proposes to completely eliminate four grants from the department's budget as part of wider cuts: Social Services Block Grant, Community Development Block Grant, Community Service Employment for Older Americans, State Health Insurance Assistant Program – and all but .1 percent of the Foster Grandparent Grant. This adds up to 7.2 percent of the department’s total funding disappearing if the proposals are implemented.

Cuts to direct assistance will also likely cost thousands of city seniors their SNAP eligibility. Others will feel the cold in the winter through the proposed reduction of heating assistance to low-income households. Tens of billions of dollars are slated for elimination from Social Security Disability Insurance.

Nonprofits and senior alike would also lose under a renewed effort in the federal budget proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would likely result in many seniors losing the ability to stay in their own homes due to cuts to home and community-based care services.

The New York City congressional delegation fielded a bipartisan response to the GOP tax plan that targeted New York. Hopes remains that Democrat and Republican representatives can once again unite on an issue that has been largely uncontroversial across the political spectrum – helping older people.

“These cuts would leave our senior citizens without warm meals and put them at risk of losing their homes,” Congressman Joe Crowley, a Queens Democrat, said in a statement. “We must reverse Republicans’ course and instead increase funding for Medicaid, affordable housing, and the other federal programs that actually support families and seniors in need.”

Long before any of these cuts became public, FPWA was already anticipating a need pivot towards fiscal policy, according to Jeanette Estima, an FPWA senior policy analyst. The FPWA – which represents about 170 human services and faith-based organizations – began to mobilize soon after the 2016 election to load up on data, analysis and other tools to battle what they expected would be an unfriendly White House, she said in an interview. 

“Having an accurate understanding of the issue was going to arm us,” she said. “We were getting the message from our members that they were getting afraid and they wanted to have a better idea of what might happen so they could prepare for it (but) we were completely unprepared to do this level of analysis on the federal budget and its impact.”

That’s when they turned towards a researcher in Connecticut who had already begun looking into Trump’s budget plans. Derek Thomas joined FPWA as a senior fiscal analyst in July 2017 and directed his research energies towards DFTA because of its relatively simple federal funding streams compared to municipal behemoths that also stand to lose big time under Trump such as the Human Resources Administration and the Department of Homeless Services.

But in due time, he hopes to analyze the fiscal impact of Trump’s fiscal policies throughout city government and present them for public consumption through an interactive budget tool, he said.

That is when nonprofits and the public alike will have a full arsenal of information to push back against a president with a notorious disregard for information. New York City seniors after all are not the only demographic that faces steep cuts proposed by Trump. And making that analysis accessible to all is key to fighting Trump’s attack on senior programs in New York City, according to Thomas.

“You want to make sure it’s digestible. You want to make sure that whatever you produce does not end up on a shelf somewhere, he added. “You want to get it in front of people.”

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