There’s an obvious one: You get more funding. For the most part, grants are made to state departments to expand their existing programs, which in turn improves the ability of government to effectively oversee the entire country’s economy and to develop and implement new laws. More money can be used to train government officers and staff, provide more affordable housing and care for the elderly. Grants are also usually used to make up for the lack of money that comes from the federal government.
But grants aren’t nearly as effective as they used to be. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a federal grant has a 1 in 5 chance of being used to pay for a property, for one-fourth of grant funding goes to rental subsidies, and for another third is used for administrative purposes. As grants shrink, the gap between what government spends and what it takes in has only widened at the state and local level.
And what the cuts have done is force the nation’s most vulnerable population—the elderly, the disabled, the poor, and poor minorities—into a financial bind. The budget-strapped states have used every means at their disposal to slash spending on programs needed for these people, such as Medicaid.
In Alabama, for instance, the median income of people in the state with disabilities was roughly $11,800 a year in 2010. By 2014, that number had plummeted to $4,700. By contrast, in Illinois, where Medicaid is administered by the state, the income and median income of people with disabilities was nearly $18,000 last year. In New Jersey, it’s $21,400.
Those losses aren’t evenly distributed. As you can see, people with disabilities—especially those with disabilities that are severe or complicated—have benefited the most. But they’re also being hit hardest by the budget cuts. According to a study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, as of the end of last year, more than half a million New Jersey residents had a disability. That’s more than 10 times as many as the average residents of states without disabilities. And more than a third of our fellow Americans with disabilities—around 6 million—share a disability.
What’s more, the cuts have also severely limited the ability of federal dollars to be spent on the kind of programs that serve the needs of the country’s most vulnerable.
In fact, the federal government is not just spending less than state and local governments on basic things like healthcare, education, housing, and poverty relief.
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