The forced resignation of Rob Porter as President Trump’s staff secretary, and the president’s dismissive response to Porter’s two former wives’ complaints that he abused them physically and emotionally, have dominated the news cycle for the past two weeks. But a less noted White House action may prove to be a longer-lasting blow to victims and survivors of domestic violence.
On Feb. 12, Trump released a 2019 budget proposal calling for deep cuts to food stamps, public housing, and federal health care programs. These programs are especially important to domestic violence survivors, according to a report released last month by the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, a nonprofit agency formed in 1993 and funded largely by the federal government.
More than one in three women and more than one in four men in the U.S. experience rape, physical violence, or stalking from an intimate partner during their lifetime, according to a report published in 2010 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In an effort to learn more about the economic issues faced by victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, and the role of public benefit programs in their recovery, researchers at the NRCDV and the Center on Poverty and Inequality at Georgetown Law analyzed survey responses from 1,126 staffers at agencies serving these victims in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The researchers found that the federal food stamp program, called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), “consistently benefits” 82 percent of the respondents’ clients. But Trump’s budget calls for a cut to SNAP that would amount to 22 percent of the program’s total cost last year, according to The Washington Post.
Similarly, housing assistance programs consistently benefit 82 percent of their clients, the survey respondents said. Trump’s budget includes cuts to Section 8 vouchers, the federal program to provide housing for people living in poverty, and the elimination of funds for public-housing capital repairs. All told, he wants a 14 percent cut to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, The Post said.
Finally, more than 75 percent of respondents’ clients consistently benefit from Medicaid or Medicare, the report states; Trump’s budget aims to eliminate expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and otherwise significantly reduces spending on public health care.
Last year, Congress largely ignored Trump’s requests for similar cuts to public benefit programs. But calls to reduce spending on the federal safety net rise year after year. “What’s new are the level of threats to these programs,” says Shaina Goodman, NRCDV’s director of policy and author of the new benefits report.
For those who need them, public benefit programs can be the difference between surviving and not surviving, one survey respondent is quoted as saying in the report.
“Strengthening these programs, not rolling them back, is necessary to help survivors and their families to attain economic stability, safety, and well-being,” Goodman says.
So whether or not Trump and his communications staff change their tune and acknowledge the horrors of domestic violence and sexual abuse, voters might consider where his budget proposals would leave victims and survivors — who, as we have learned in the past six months, are more numerous than many have cared to admit.