Experts: Proposed federal budget cuts could hurt Panhandle’s economic engine | News, Sports, Jobs

MARTINSBURG — Eastern Panhandle residents relying on federal assistance programs — including Medicaid, SNAP and PELL grants — will have to make do with less under proposed Congressional legislation aimed at cutting these and other federal assistance programs over the next 10 years, say goverment experts.

Under the proposed House Budget Resolution 2018 there would be $150 billion in SNAP cuts over 10 years and $1.6 billion cut over 10 years in the Community Eligibility Provision for school lunch and breakfast programs in high-poverty schools.

HBR 2018 has been voted out of the House Budget Committee and awaits action by the entire house in early September.

If enacted, the proposed house budget resolution would stifle the state’s economic growth, including the Eastern Panhandle, said Seth DiStefano, state EITC campaign coordinator for the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.

However, proponents of the proposed legislation argue that the resolution draws a path toward a balanced budget within ten years without raising taxes, and places governement on a fiscal course sustainable for the long-term, according to the House Budget Committee website.

An estimated 357,000 West Virginia residents participate in SNAP and an estimated 600,000 residents participate in Medicaid, according to WVCBP statistics.

“Medicaid expansion has been phenomenally successful for West Virginia,” DiStefano said. “During the darkest times of our economy in the last eight years, the lone bright spot has been health care job increases that are directly related to the expansion of Medicaid.”

According to DiStefano, 178 health care jobs have been created in Morgan County from 2008-16.

“It’s from federal Medicaid dollars earmarked to provide health care access to people who had not had it before,” DiStefano said.

However, under HBR 2018, those medical care jobs in the Eastern Panhandle may disappear, DiStefano said.

“When you have a House budget resolution in front of you that looks to cut Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act over 10 years by about $10.7 trillion dollars, that’s a very big number. What does that number mean to those 178 Medicaid jobs in Morgan County — those jobs are now basically gone.”

DiStefano also claims the proposed Medicaid cuts would seriously undercut West’ Virginia’s fight against opioid addiction.

“Medicaid is the most important tool that West Virginia has in the fight against addiction,” DiStefano said. “It provides the help for people top get into recovery and take that step to becoming sober and again leaving a productive life.”

According to DiStefano, HBR 2018 would also cut federal funding for SNAP, the supplemental nutritional assistance program, which provides food assistance to low income families throughout the state.

“In Berkeley County alone, there are over 7,000 kids who reply on supplemental nutrition program to have something to eat on a daily basis,” DiStefano said.

As outlined in the proposed house budget resolution, Federal funding for SNAP would be gradually cut over the next 10 years.

In West Virginia, the typical SNAP recipient receives an average of $3.87 per day, according to WVCBP statistics. In West Virginia, an estimated 130,000 children, 81,000 workers and 35,000 senior citizens receive some form of SNAP benefit daily, DiStefano said.

Also to be cut under HBR 2018: PELL grant recipients, who would see their funding reduced by $1,000 a year, DiStefano said. PELL grants are a federal subsidy program to provide financial assistance to qualified students to attend college.

Staff writer Jim McConville can be reached at 304-263-8931, ext. 215, or Twitter@jmcconvilleJN.

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