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June 01, 2017

Trump budget cuts would make our country weaker

The goal of the president’s budget is to “restore the greatness of our nation.” To the president and myself, greatness must mean two very different things.

I see the greatness of America in how we care for each other, how we support our neighbors when they are in need, and how we stand up for what is right.

Greatness, to this administration, is none of that. It is not giving people a hand up, but pushing them down. It is taking from those who need support, taking from children, seniors and the poor.

NoneSource/centerforhungerfreecommunities.org

Myra Young

SNAP, which most of you know by its old name, food stamps, is a lifeline. It is a program that helps not only feed our children but supports workers when wages are too low. It allows people to use their money toward rent or to pay for tokens to get to work without having to take food away from their children.

As a working mother who receives SNAP, I rely on the program because even though I work hard, my wages are not enough. I work as a certified nursing assistant taking care of other people’s newborn babies. At the same time, my pay does not cover the cost of keeping my own children fed, housed, and cared for. I rely on SNAP to make up that difference.

Right now I receive $100 each month for a household of four people. I stretch every SNAP dollar using coupons, shopping around, and only buying what I absolutely need. That means I have to skip the $7 bunch of grapes even though my kids would love to have them. I use that money to get the most amount of food, even if it's not the most nutritious food, for my family to make sure we don’t go hungry.

I also want to restore America’s greatness. But that does not come with this budget.

I work hard to take care of my family. I have worked for the last 22 years, but I still live in poverty and need government assistance to put food on the table and keep my kids healthy. There is so much talk about the need for people to find jobs and work. They say that alone will solve poverty.

I’m here to tell you that I work but I am still poor.

Jobs will not solve poverty unless they are jobs that pay a good wage, provide benefits, and treat people with dignity. Until the minimum wage is raised, people need programs like SNAP to survive. Don’t just keep telling people to go to work.

Last week, my 10-year-old son asked, “Mom, why do you cry so much?”

I told him, “Because I want to take care of you and your sister, but it’s so hard.” This budget and these cuts will only make things harder for families. It will make more mothers cry, more kids hungry, and America weaker.

I also want to restore America’s greatness. But that does not come with this budget.

If I was writing the budget, I would want to feed the hungry, house the homeless, and take care of the sick.

I would know that when you are hungry you cannot focus on your work and your kids cannot focus in school.

I would know the pain of telling your kids they cannot have something they may need or of putting them to bed hungry because the electric bill is due.

Our country is only as strong as those who are vulnerable and I would work to lift them up, not hold them down. As a member of the poverty advocacy program Witnesses to Hunger, my sisters and I will continue to bring these insights and this expertise to the table. We will not be quiet, we will not let our children go hungry, and we will work to restore our own greatness.

As they hold SNAP to the chopping block, can America’s politicians say the same thing?

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Myra Young has been a member of Witnesses to Hunger, a program at Drexel University’s Center for Hunger-Free Communities. Witnesses is an advocacy program where people who experience hunger and poverty share their expertise. Myra has been a member of the program since 2008.

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