March 12, 2019 by David Silverberg
Southwest Floridians receiving Medicare benefits, Social Security payments and other social safety net assistance stand to suffer significant blows to their government-provided benefits under President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, released yesterday, March 11.
The budget slashes $845 billion over 10 years from the Medicare program. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, as of 2017 (the most recent date for which statistics are available), Lee County had 175,648 Part A and B Medicare recipients, while Collier County had 90,800.
Social Security would suffer $25 billion in cuts over 10 years as well. As of December 2017 (the most recent figures available) there were 12,863 Social Security recipients in Lee County and 4,169 recipients in Collier County, according to the Social Security Administration.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as food stamps, would receive a $220 billion cut over 10 years and recipients would face mandatory work requirements. The program currently serves around 45 million people nationwide and 99,208 people in Lee County and 26,617 in Collier County, as of December 2018.
The budget cuts all non-defense agencies by 9 percent and takes aim at environmental and science-driven agencies.
The Environmental Protection Agency would suffer a 31 percent cut, with the agency’s overall funding dropping to $6.1 billion, down from the $8 billion Congress enacted in 2017.
The Department of the Interior’s budget is cut by 14 percent. The Trump proposal, however, increases funding for Interior Department programs that “support safe and responsible development of energy on public lands and offshore waters”—which for Southwest Florida means potential oil exploration and exploitation off the Gulf coast and in federal lands like Everglades National Park.
When it comes to the Everglades, the budget requests a total of $118 million for Everglades restoration of which $74.3 million would be for projects under the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) and $44 million would be for non-CERP work, of which $43 million would come through the Department of the Interior.
Controversy and reaction
Nationally, the budget’s most controversial provision calls for $8.6 billion for a wall along the US southwestern border and boosts military spending 5 percent to $750 billion.
The budget proposal was met with a blast of condemnation from congressional Democrats, who denounced it as “irresponsible” and a “cynical vision for our country,” (Rep. John Yarmuth (D-3-Ky.) chairman of the House Budget Committee), “even more untethered from reality than his past two [budget requests],” (Rep. Nita Lowey (D-17-NY), chair of the House Appropriations Committee) and “breathtaking in its degree of cruelty,” (Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)).
Liberty lives in light