The Lead

Trump budget would take millions away from disabled Americans, former Pa. Gov. Tom Ridge writes.

By: - April 17, 2019 4:46 pm

Gov. Tom Ridge testifies before a House Committee on Monday, April 8, 2019. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge took aim at President Donald Trump’s proposed 2020 budget on Wednesday, saying it would cut tens of millions of dollars in programs for people with disabilities.

The former two-term Republican governor, and the nation’s first Homeland Security secretary, raised his criticisms in a Wednesday op-ed in the New York Times.  

Ridge, who currently serves as the chairman of the National Organization on Disability, said Trump’s proposed budget would strip disabled people of vital resources, particularly those that help them enter the workforce.

Among the proposals in Trump’s 2020 budget is a plan to turn Medicaid into a block grant program, which the administration says would give states more discretion in how the funds are spent.

The proposal would also allocate a fixed amount of Medicaid dollars to every state, according to the news site Disability Scoop, “rather than sending matching grants to states to whatever services they provide to Medicaid recipients.”

Disability advocates fear this would result in a net reduction of Medicaid spending.

In addition to those changes, Trump’s budget calls for tens of millions of dollars in program cuts.

If approved by Congress, the cuts would endanger independent living centers, assistive-technology programs, support for individuals living with brain injuries and support services for family caregivers, Ridge warned.

The Office of Disability Employment Policy, a program within the federal Department of Labor that helps employers in the public sector accommodate disabled employees, is also on the chopping block, Ridge said.

Ridge wrote that the proposed cuts “are not just unjust but fiscally foolish,” especially “at a time when our nation is seeing historically low unemployment rates and employers need to find new sources for talent.”

He said that employers would benefit from a more robust population of disabled workers.

“Any business that hasn’t figured out how to benefit from the problem-solving abilities and the tenacity of people who spend their lives navigating a world that wasn’t built for them isn’t trying hard enough,” Ridge wrote.

Ridge called on the Trump administration to restore all the funding it’s proposed to cut for disability programs.  

He also applauded US Senator Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania, who, along with Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, wrote a letter to federal offices calling on them to affirm the goals of the Americans with Disability Act in the 2020 budget.

“The exclusion of any group of people from our economy is not only a problem for those who’ve been excluded,” Ridge wrote. “It’s a scourge on our democracy that touches us all.”

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Elizabeth Hardison
Elizabeth Hardison

Elizabeth Hardison covered education policy, election administration, criminal justice and legislative news for the Capital-Star from Jan. 2019-April 2021. You can find her on Twitter @ElizHardison.