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New Assessments From Federal Agencies Underscore Harm of GOP Budget Cuts

From mass evictions to education cuts, GOP austerity would impose “irreparable damage” on millions of people.

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy speaks during a news conference after a budget briefing at the U.S. Capitol on March 8, 2023, in Washington, D.C.

The top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee on Monday released letters from federal agencies that together provide a detailed look at the implications of the House GOP’s proposed budget cuts, which would take an axe to programs that help millions of people make rent, feed their families, and afford childcare.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) asked the leaders of major government departments to outline what would happen if House Republicans succeeded in their push to freeze federal spending at fiscal year 2022 levels, a move that would inflict deep across-the-board cuts on agency budgets.

DeLauro said the agencies’ responses make clear that the cuts “would cause irreparable damage to our communities by gutting the programs every single American relies on.”

“Those proposals are unrealistic, unsustainable, and unconscionable,” said DeLauro. “The draconian cuts would take away the opportunity for 80,000 people to attend college and impact all 6.6 million students who rely on Pell Grants. If implemented, 200,000 children will lose access to Head Start, and 100,000 children will lose access to childcare, undermining early education and parents’ ability to go to work.”

“As if that was not enough to deter these harmful cuts,” she added, “1.2 million women, infants, and children would lose vital nutrition assistance they receive through WIC.”

Those figures come directly from letters that agency heads sent to DeLauro last week as congressional Democrats and the Biden administration ramp up their criticism of the House GOP’s pursuit of steep spending cuts, which Republicans are demanding in exchange for lifting the debt ceiling and averting a catastrophic default.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) told Roll Call on Monday that House Appropriations Chair Kay Granger (R-Texas) has instructed Republicans to “scrub every penny, every department, every agency, dollar, every penny spent, to try to find savings, to try to figure out where we can cut spending in a responsible way” — though top GOP lawmakers have indicated they will likely shield the fraud-ridden Pentagon from cuts.

In a March 17 letter, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) warned that reverting its budget to fiscal year 2022 levels would strip federal rental assistance from 640,000 families, making it “impossible to stave off mass evictions.”

The Department of Education, meanwhile, estimated that GOP cuts would have the effect of “removing more than 13,000 teachers and service providers from classrooms serving low-income children.”

“A reduction of 22% from currently enacted levels would cut $468 million in federal support to determine, disburse, and service student aid,” the agency continued. “This level of funding would have devastating effects on student and parent interactions with the department, as well as on their ability to successfully apply for and receive student aid.”

In a press release, DeLauro spotlighted projections from other agencies that demonstrate the far-reaching consequences of the GOP’s austerity push:

  • After recent near-misses, our air travel would come to a halt with 125 Air Traffic Control Towers shutting down, impacting one-third of all airports;
  • Following the catastrophic derailments in eastern Ohio and West Virginia, rail safety jobs would be dramatically reduced, with 11,000 fewer safety inspection days, and 30,000 fewer miles of track inspected annually;
  • Amid a mental health and overdose crisis, nearly 1 million people facing a suicidal or mental health crisis would be unable to access support services through the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, and tens of thousands of individuals could be denied admission to opioid use disorder treatment, denying them a potentially life-saving path to recovery;
  • An estimated 2 million vulnerable individuals and families, including rural and underserved populations, would lose access to healthcare services through Community Health Centers;
  • With the looming rise of food insecurity, nutrition services, such as Meals on Wheels, would be cut for more than 1 million seniors; and
  • The Social Security Administration would be forced to close field offices and reduce access to in-person services, and people applying for disability benefits would wait an additional two months for the processing of claims.

And that’s not even the full picture: DeLauro is still awaiting responses from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Agency for International Development, among other departments.

“The programs that we fund every year keep our communities safe and healthy, lower prices, and create jobs, and we have increased investments in them year after year with the support of Democrats and Republicans in both the House and the Senate,” DeLauro said Monday.

“Continued Republican calls for cuts of this magnitude — both secret proposals from Republican leadership and public demands from extremists in the party — would be absolutely detrimental to all Americans, many of whom have not seen a pay raise in years and are struggling to pay their bills,” said the Connecticut Democrat. “The math is not there.”

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