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Trump's budget puts safety-net programs in the crosshairs

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The Trump administration's $4.8 trillion budget has a number of winners, including NASA and defense spending. But among the losers would be social safety-net programs that are relied on by many low- and middle-class Americans alike. 

Among the programs that would face cuts are Medicaid, which provides medical insurance to low-income households, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps. Cuts are also directed at spending on people with disabilities and the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, which provides funding for uninsured children whose families earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid. 

While the Trump budget has little chance of being enacted in its current state by Congress, the proposal can be viewed as a blueprint for the administration's priorities, experts say. The plan would cut $1 trillion from Medicaid and Affordable Care Act premium tax credits over 10 years, pare assistance to people with disabilities, and slash food-stamp spending by about $180 billion over the next decade, according to the the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The proposed budget is "stunningly harsh," Robert Greenstein, president of the liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said in a statement. "It would take health coverage away from millions of people and cut aid to millions of families and individuals struggling to make ends meet."

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In some cases, the administration may not require budgetary changes to pare spending. Take the food stamp program, which has been targeted by new and proposed rules from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. About 5.3 million households could lose or see reduced food-stamp benefits under those new rules without any budget vote by Congress.

"The Trump Administration has disregarded Congress before when it comes to funding priorities: Congress passed a bipartisan Farm Bill that protected SNAP, and then the Administration used three rule changes to make the cuts they wanted in the first place," said Lily Roberts, director of economic mobility at the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, in an email to CBS MoneyWatch.

Under the proposed budget, spending for the SNAP program would be pared by almost $182 billion through 2030. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has said the food-stamp reforms will help workers become more self-sufficient. 

The cuts would come at a time when the program's already shrinking. The program's costs have dropped from a peak of $80 billion in 2013 to about $58 billion in 2019 as the economy gained its footing following the recession, bringing more Americans into the labor market. 

"Harvest boxes"

The budget also revives the Trump administration's plans for "Harvest Boxes," which it describes as "American-grown foods provided directly to households" delivered in a box for food-stamp recipients, rather than allowing them to buy their own groceries at food stores with the benefits. 

"States would maintain the ability to provide choice to their participants, including by using innovative approaches for the inclusion of fresh products," the budget says. 

These boxes aren't a new idea, having been proposed two years ago by the administration. Critics have called the idea "condescending" and "demeaning" by taking away recipients' ability to make their own food choices.

Medicaid, CHIP

The budget also calls for cuts to Medicaid, partly by adding work requirements for "able-bodied, working-age individuals" between the ages of 18 to 65. 

"Medicaid spending will grow at a more sustainable rate by ending the financial bias that currently favors able-bodied working-age adults over the truly vulnerable," the Trump administration's budget states. 

Spending in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, which covers 8.9 million U.S. children, would be reduced by $193 billion over 10 years. Together, Medicaid and CHIP provide health coverage for about 4 of 10 children, the American Hospital Association says.

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