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Calling for a Fair and Accessible Budget

Calling for a Fair and Accessible Budget

picture of capitol hill

Everywhere I look there seems to be media coverage of the 2016 presidential race. The top of every newspaper is devoted daily to where candidates are campaigning today. Living in Washington, D.C. might factor into this, but every conversation I have with people seems to drift into talking about the election as well. All of this time devoted to the election can distract from other important news: Congress is currently considering the $3.8 trillion budget of the federal government for 2017, and we cannot lose sight of the fact that the budget for next year will affect us all in very tangible ways.

The federal budget is especially important for people living with disabilities. Nearly 1 in 5 Americans live with a disability, and they rely on countless government funded services including social security, Medicare, transportation, education, vocational training and so much more. Some of this funding is allocated to ensure that all government services are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Other spending priorities are meant to assist those who, because of their disability, are unable to work or are burdened with steep medical expenses.

All people should have the right to accessible education, employment, healthcare and all other aspects of society, but ensuring that promise involves us passing budgets that place financial support behind our ideals.

The President’s Budget

This year’s budget season began when President Obama released his executive budget in February. This budget widely maintained funding for programs that support people with disabilities while making new investments especially in early intervention for young children with developmental disabilities. The President’s budget includes:

Education:  $907 million in IDEA Preschools Grants and the IDEA Infants and Families Program to help preschools offer comprehensive special education.

Housing:  $154 million to help 27,000 people with disabilities live in safe, affordable, and integrated housing.

Transportation: $350 million to the Federal Railroad administration to bring all Amtrak stations into ADA compliance. These stations were supposed to be compliant five years ago under the ADA so there is urgency to provide accessible transportation.

Healthcare: $5.1 billion in the Health Centers program to provide quality medical care to underserved areas.

The House Budget

The House of Representatives proposed a budget resolution, in March, that attempts to cut federal spending without raising taxes. Unfortunately, this budget would make deep cuts to programs that assist people with disabilities. 62% of all cuts in this budget come from programs that support low and moderate income individuals. With 1 in 3 people living with a disability falling into this category, cuts to these programs disproportionally affect people with disabilities. This budget cuts $1 trillion over the next ten years from Medicaid and another $1 trillion for other non-defense discretionary programs.

The House proposal has not been passed, as lawmakers are still negotiating. Our Jewish tradition compels us to care for all individuals regardless of ability. “Treat no one lightly and think nothing is useless, for everyone has a moment and everything has a place” (Pirke Avot 4:3). As the budget process moves forward, we will continue to urge Congress to pass a budget that values all individuals and does not cut funding from our most vulnerable populations.

 

Visit the RAC’s economic justice page to stay up to date with this year’s budget process.

 

 

Tyler Dratch is the Torah, text, and tradition coordinator at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (the RAC) and a rabbinical student at Hebrew College in Newton, MA.

Tyler Dratch

Published: 5/11/2016