Trump's Budget And Older Adults

Apr 1, 2017
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

President Trump's proposed new budget emphasizes national security and public safety. In the blueprint of that budget, most departments see reductions. Nineteen programs are slated to be eliminated. Several of those serve older Americans. NPR's Ina Jaffe covers aging. She joins us now from NPR West for a segment we call 1 in 5 for the 1 in 5 Americans who will be 65 or older by the year 2030. Ina, thanks very much for being back with us.

INA JAFFE, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: Are there programs for seniors that could be eliminated entirely if you take a look at this draft budget?

JAFFE: There definitely are. I mean, one of them is a job training program. People have probably never heard of it. It's called Senior Community Service Employment Program. And the participants have incomes around the poverty line or just above. So these are people who need to work into their 60s or 70s. And annually, there's around 70,000 participants. Their training consists of part-time work at local nonprofits or government agencies, and they're paid minimum wage. So if the program goes away, the trainees lose their wages and the local nonprofits lose their subsidized workers.

SIMON: Why would the administration want to eliminate a program like this?

JAFFE: I tried to get an answer to that from the Office of Management and Budget, but they didn't respond. The budget blueprint says that the program's got to go because it's ineffective, that only half the trainees eventually find unsubsidized jobs, and cutting it would save the government $434 million.

SIMON: A couple of weeks ago, the budget director, Mick Mulvaney, said that the administration just doesn't want to fund programs it sees as being ineffective. Let's listen to how he phrased it.

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MICK MULVANEY: We're going to spend money. We're going to spend a lot of money, but we're not going to spend it on programs that cannot show that they actually deliver the promises that we've made to people.

SIMON: Are there other programs for seniors, Ina, that the administration finds ineffective and wants to eliminate?

JAFFE: Well, you know, this is just the administration's first pass of this budget, and it doesn't give reasons for every cut and reduction. So, for example, we don't know why a program called Senior Corps is on the chopping block. And as I said before, the Office of Management and Budget didn't answer my questions about that. And, Scott, Senior Corps is not a small program. Nearly a quarter of a million older Americans participate in it.

SIMON: I haven't heard of it.

JAFFE: Yeah. Well, most people haven't in that form, but you probably have heard, for example, of foster grandparents, right? These are older people who mentor and tutor at-risk kids in elementary schools. Well, that's part of Senior Corps; so is another program where older volunteers help out frail, isolated elderly in their homes. And there's a third Senior Corps program that places volunteers with various community organizations. Again, the participants are mostly low income and some receive a small stipend.

SIMON: Senior citizens are (laughter) famously well-organized and are often cited as just about the most effective political lobby in the country. So these are proposed cuts. There still would be a fight ahead in Congress, wouldn't there?

JAFFE: There'd be a big fight ahead in Congress, and I'm sure all of the interest groups that are well-known to everybody are organizing to fight this. And the other thing to remember is that older people vote. They are the highest propensity voters by age in the country, and they went heavily for Donald Trump. And I think that is something that the Trump administration may want to keep in mind.

SIMON: NPR's Ina Jaffe, thanks so much.

JAFFE: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.