by James Jimenez,
June 9, 2017

Our communities do best when everyone contributes. We are strengthened when our children fulfill their potential and become the entrepreneurs, teachers and artists they were born to be.

And because no one reaches their potential without a little help, our nation provides opportunities to those who would otherwise be unable to access them. We do this not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also because these are investments that will pay off for all of us with a better quality of life, a stronger economy, and a brighter future.

But those investments are at risk — and that puts us all in danger. The federal budget proposed by President Trump makes deep cuts to the services and programs that help our nation’s children reach their potential. Because New Mexico has a high share of children who are in need of these investments, our state will be among those most hurt should Congress pass this budget without making wholesale changes.

The president’s proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, would take more than $1.2 billion in food aid from New Mexico’s children, the elderly and the disabled over the next decade. The state would lose even more funding for Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income children, disabled adults, nursing home residents and others.

If you personally don’t benefit from these programs, you may think deep cuts to them won’t impact you. But these cuts will drain resources from your community — and that will impact you.

The proposed SNAP cuts equate to $120 million a year that won’t go to your local grocery stores and farmer’s markets. The lost Medicaid dollars won’t go to your doctor, the clinic where you get your health care, and the local hospital.

When low-income families don’t get the SNAP and Medicaid benefits for which they qualify, they do without or choose expensive options like the emergency room. They don’t have extra money for emergencies. And when they do without, so do the businesses where they would have spent their benefits. Since everyone needs food, low-income families will still purchase it, but they will have less money to spend on other necessities. So, not only will your local grocery store see less business, so will the local drug store, barber’s shop and auto mechanic.

While these businesses might need to hike prices or cut back on employee working hours, they probably won’t have to close their doors. But your local hospital might. Most hospitals, health clinics, doctor’s offices and nursing homes rely on Medicaid to some extent. And health care providers in small and rural communities rely on Medicaid the most. When local businesses — whether they are grocery stores or doctors’ offices — have to cut employee hours or shut down entirely, people’s paychecks suffer. When people’s paychecks suffer they have less money to spend at other businesses in your community. Those businesses then have to hike prices or cut back on employee work hours. You can see where this is headed, and it’s not pretty.

The president wants to use the money he cuts from SNAP and Medicaid for big tax breaks for rich people like himself. But rich people don’t circulate money through the economy as quickly as low- and middle-income people do. They’re not going to spend the $1.2 billion that New Mexico will lose in SNAP benefits in our grocery stores and farmer’s markets. They’re not going to keep the local health-care provider in business.

The deep spending cuts in the Trump budget don’t just pull the rug out from under poor kids, the disabled and the elderly. The harmful effects will ripple into every small business in your community. This is not how we strengthen our communities. We strengthen our communities by investing in them.

James Jimenez is executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children.