Groups Gear Up for Fight to Protect Programs Targeted by Budget Proposal

The White House budget proposal, which cuts funds for a variety of domestic programs, has spurred associations to act to protect initiatives that many Americans rely on. Meals on Wheels America is just one high-profile example.

Potential cuts to Meals on Wheels drove much of the discussion about the Trump administration’s 2018 draft budget proposal last week, but it doesn’t end there. A wide range of associations and other nonprofits have raised concerns over specific cutbacks in the draft budget.

During a White House news briefing last week, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney stirred up strong public reaction when he explained cuts to the Meals on Wheels program. “We’re not going to spend [money] on programs that cannot show that they actually deliver the promises that we’ve made to people,” Mulvaney said, referring to taxpayers.

The program receives funding from a variety of sources, including federal community development block grants, which would be eliminated under the budget proposal, USA Today reported. And the Department of Health and Human Services, which includes the agency that provides the bulk of the federal funding for Meals on Wheels,  is slated for a 16 percent across-the-board budget reduction.

“The problem with a skinny budget is it is lean on details,” Meals on Wheels America President and CEO Ellie Hollander said in a statement, adding that any kind of cut “would be a devastating blow to our ability to provide much-needed care for millions of vulnerable seniors in America.”

The controversy raised the association’s profile over the weekend, leading to a surge in donations.

Other Groups Speak Up

The concerns about the budget went far beyond Meals on Wheels. Just a handful of the many groups that spoke up last week:

Arts funding. Americans for the Arts took issue with proposed cuts in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. President and CEO Robert L. Lynch argued that the proposed cuts disregard $730 billion in economic value that arts programs generate, driven by a $148 million appropriation each year. “President Trump does not yet realize the vast contribution the NEA makes to our nation’s economy and communities, as well as his own agenda to create jobs ‘made and hired’ in America,” Lynch said in a statement. The National Dance Education Organization also spoke out against cutting arts funding.

School funding. The National Association of Secondary School Principals objected to cuts to education, particularly a flexible $2.4 billion fund for improving teacher and principal quality, and a move to allow Title I funding to follow students to different schools. “The president’s proposed budget abandons the nation’s public schools at a time when states are working to implement the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act,” said Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti. Other organizations, including the National School Boards Association, added their voices in opposition.

Science groups. A variety of science groups raised concerns about deep cuts to the National Institutes of Health, targeted for a $5.8 billion trim in funding, and other agencies. “When you see such drastic reductions in federal spending, it discourages students from completing or pursuing STEM degrees,” said Joanne Carney, director of government relations for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in comments to Inside Higher Ed. The American Chemical Society, meanwhile, warned of risks to a variety of agencies, including the Chemical Safety Board, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Institutes of Health, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Science Foundation.

Higher ed funding. The Association of American Universities, which joined the criticism of cuts in science funding, also noted that the proposed budget would hurt popular work-study and Pell Grant programs, which benefit low-income students. “This proposal would lead to a U.S. innovation deficit, as it comes at a time when China and other economic competitors continue their investment surge in research and higher education,” said AAU President Mary Sue Coleman.

Seniors share a laugh while finishing up their meals in Sun City, Arizona. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters/File Photo)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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