Trump Budget Cuts Put Struggling Americans on Edge

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from The New York Times,

Joe and Paula Frye

Regina Feltner, a retired nurse, was recovering from side effects of radiation therapy when she got the notice that her heat would be cut off. It was a bone-cold January day. The snow was so high that her daughter had to come over to take the dog out.

“I have lung cancer and it’s the dead of winter,” she remembers thinking. “What am I going to do?”

Help came in the form of a heating subsidy: money from the federal government, delivered by the Highland County Community Action Organization, a small nonprofit in rural southern Ohio, where Ms. Feltner lives.

Now, that program is on the chopping block. It is one of many cuts in President Trump’s new budget proposal that would inflict the deepest pain on the most vulnerable Americans — a great number of whom voted for him.

“I understand what he’s trying to do, but I think he’s just not stopping to think that there are people caught in the middle he is really going to hurt,” said Ms. Feltner, 57, who was a nurse for 25 years and voted for Mr. Trump. “He needs to make some concessions for that. I was a productive citizen. Don’t make me feel worthless now.”

As news of Mr. Trump’s budget begins to sink in across the country, Americans are trying to parse what the changes to the government’s spending plan might mean for them. It is only a proposal, an opening bid in what is likely to be a protracted public argument over national priorities. But it is important because it signals what the new president is thinking, his wish list for the size and shape of government.

In two days of interviews with beneficiaries of programs at risk in 11 states, many people said they did not see themselves reflected in Mr. Trump’s vision for the government. And some felt surprise at what has been left out.

Ms. Feltner said that without the heating subsidy she would probably have to move in with her daughter and two teenage grandchildren. “I’d still like to have a little dignity left, and not have to move in with someone else,” she said. “I used to be the one packing up the food in the food pantry for people,” she said. “Now I’m the one in line.”

Another proposed cut would defund the Appalachian Regional Commission, which was founded in 1965 to strengthen economic growth in a 13-state swath of the country. Of the 420 counties in the commission’s footprint, 399 voted for Mr. Trump.

“I hate to see him cut us,” said Chris Farley, 32, of Delbarton, W.Va., who was laid off from his job operating a drill at a surface coal mine in 2015 and is now in a jobs and education program partially funded by the commission.

Mr. Farley worked in coal for 11 years. When he was 18, his father, a miner, helped get him a job driving a truck that carried rocks. The pay was good: He was making $20 an hour when he was laid off — a punch he did not see coming.

The only work he found afterward paid minimum wage. With a wife and 3-year-old daughter, he struggled to pay the bills. “I tried everywhere to get a job,” he said. “I mowed lawns. I cut weeds. I hauled trash.”

One of those proposed cuts would kill the Legal Service Corporation, which funds 133 civil legal aid programs in the 50 states at a cost of $385 million. That funding stream makes up 40 percent of the budget for Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, whose lawyers saved Paula and Joe Frye from losing their nine-acre home.

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