Congressional staffers unpack fiscal year 2021 budget documents.
Feb. 11, 2020 by David Silverberg
Southwest Florida seniors are likely to suffer if President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2021 budget request is enacted as proposed.
The president’s $4.8 trillion budget, officially unveiled yesterday, Feb. 10, would cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
Medicare spending would be reduced by 7 percent or $756 billion between 2021 and 2030. Doctors, hospitals and hospices would receive lower reimbursement rates for the services they provide.
Two Social Security programs, SSDI and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which pays monthly benefits to people with limited income and resources who are disabled, blind, or age 65 or older, would lose $75 billion over the same period, with $10 billion in cuts coming from retroactive benefits a person can receive after he or she is considered disabled.
Other programs important to seniors like Meals on Wheels, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, the Senior Community Service Employment Program and legal services for seniors would be cut or eliminated.
These cuts and reductions would fall heavily in Lee and Collier counties, which have double the national percentage of people 65 or older.
According to 2018 Census statistics, 28.6 percent of Lee County’s 618,754 people are 65 or older (which works out to 174,488 people). Of Collier County’s 321,521 people, 32.2 percent are 65 or older (103,530 people). Both counties’ populations have been steadily increasing.
According to DataUSA, a private consortium that repackages government data, 14.7 percent of Lee County’s population is on Medicaid and 20.8 percent is on Medicare. In Collier County that is 12 percent on Medicaid, 24.9 percent on Medicare.
These are significant populations that could be significantly, adversely affected by Trump’s proposed budget cuts.
Southwest Florida reactions
This will be Trump’s last budget proposal before the 2020 election, making it particularly significant and politically impactful.
However, reaction in Southwest Florida from both candidates and sitting representatives was surprisingly mixed.
The only congressional candidate in the 19th Congressional District to immediately comment was Democrat Cindy Banyai.
“The thing that is so disappointing about the #TrumpBudget and every similar austere fiscally conservative move, is that SS, Medicare are macroeconomic drivers that other countries wish they had. Funding only the ‘deserving’ is crippling,” she tweeted as soon as the budget was released.
Among Republican candidates for the 19th District seat only State Rep. Dane Eagle (R-77-Cape Coral) issued any sort of comment at all and his was a generic partisan tweet urging people to vote Republican if they believe in strong borders, lower taxes, low oil prices, law enforcement and the military. He made no mention of the budget or the cuts to social safety net programs.
Sitting SWFL Republican members of Congress were active on Twitter as the budget was released—but each addressed topics as far from the budget and constituent impacts as possible.
Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) was concerned with events in El Salvador: “Reports of armed police and soldiers entering #ElSalvador’s National Assembly are deeply concerning. I urge all sides to come together in a peaceful and constructive manner to address the needs of the Salvadoran people,” he tweeted at the time.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) thanked President Trump for funding Everglades restoration. “As my colleagues from the Everglades Caucus & I stated in our recent letter to POTUS, the #Everglades is a national treasure & fundamental to Florida’s economy. I thank @POTUS for including the requested $250 million in his proposed budget to Congress.”
Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) was more concerned with the costs of investigating President Trump’s high crimes and misdemeanors: “Now that @realDonaldTrump has been acquitted, I am proud to announce I am co-sponsoring the SHAM Act. It is time we audit that entire bogus process to figure out exactly how much taxpayer money was wasted.” (The Statement of Harm to the American Majority Act or SHAM Act, House Resolution 5769, would initiate an audit of the costs of the presidential impeachment inquiry.)
On a national level, House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) issued a statement saying: “President Trump’s latest budget continues his relentless attacks on the health and economic security of hard-working Americans. It is a complete reversal of the promises he made in the campaign and a contradiction of the statements he made at the State of the Union.”
When it came to social safety net programs affecting seniors, Pelosi stated: “President Trump has broken his promises to seniors and families by slashing half a trillion dollars from Medicare, taking $900 billion from the lifeline of Medicaid, and cutting Social Security Disability Insurance.”
She concluded: “The federal budget is supposed to be a statement of national values. Once again, the President is showing just how little he values the good health, financial security and well-being of hard-working American families. The President’s budget is anti-growth, does not create good-paying jobs and increases the national debt.”
The budget proposal will now be considered by the House of Representatives, where it is likely to be substantially altered.
Liberty lives in light
© 2020 by David Silverberg