Senior Policy Analyst
President Trump’s 2021 budget would make it harder for millions of people with disabilities to afford such basics as food, housing, and health care by cutting tens of billions of dollars from disability programs, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). And it would compound the hit for those with disabilities by also severely cutting Medicaid, food assistance, and housing vouchers, all while proposing to extend tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefit those at the top.
Here’s how the budget would hurt people with disabilities:
The budget would force people with disabilities into poverty and hardship. SSI protects the most vulnerable people with disabilities, including children. Most SSI recipients qualify based on a severe disability; 1.1 million children receive SSI for conditions such as Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, intellectual disability, and blindness.
Echoing a plan from House Republicans, the budget would cut $8 billion from SSI over ten years by reducing benefits for families in which more than one member qualifies for SSI — hurting some of the most vulnerable families, for example when children share a genetic disorder. Some 70 percent of poor families caring for more than one child with disabilities already struggle to meet basic needs, and these cuts would make their lives even harder.
Two-thirds of its nearly $50 billion in disability program savings comes from a vague proposal to “test new approaches to increase labor force participation.” The proposal assumes that after five years of experimenting, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will find large savings. SSA, however, has launched many demonstration projects over the years to test new ways to encourage beneficiaries to return to work, and they have consistently shown limited results or proved not cost-effective. Given disability beneficiaries’ severe impairments and high death rates, this proposal is very unlikely to fuel dramatic increases in work and, in turn, large savings for Social Security.
Enabling people with disabilities to work to their full potential would likely cost, not save, money. For example, it would mean more — not dramatically less — Medicaid spending for things like the long-term services and supports that many people with disabilities need to work. Slashing vital supports makes it harder for people with severe illnesses and injuries to get back on their feet.