Two Thirds of Human Needs Programs Have Lost Ground Since 2010 – CHN

By David Elliot of the Coalition on Human Needs | Originally published on February 19, 2020

In a post from its Voices for Human Needs blog, the Coalition on Human Needs (CHN) shares new analysis showing a troubling decline in public benefit funding over the last decade. The Trump administration’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2021 would further reduce funding for human needs programs and put added strain on poor and low-income families across the country.


new analysis released today by the Coalition on Human Needs found that since 2010, a large number of programs providing health care, housing, training and education, nutrition, child welfare and other social services of special importance to low-income people have seen significant reductions.

CHN analyzed spending for 191 human needs programs funded by the federal government. It found that two-thirds (127 programs) were funded at a lower level this year than in FY 2010, adjusted for inflation. More than a quarter of these (49 programs) lost 25 percent or more of funding over the decade. Nearly six out of ten (112 programs) dropped by more than 10 percent.

Some of the more egregious examples: Funding for home heating and cooling assistance for low-income people declined by more than 30 percent; local juvenile delinquency prevention was cut by 46 percent. Child welfare services funding dropped by more than 20 percent. Housing for persons with disabilities dropped by nearly 44 percent, and WIC nutrition funding for young children and pregnant women dropped over 30 percent.

There is some good news sprinkled in with the bad. Over the past four years, Congress has eased mandated spending caps, allowing for growth in some important human needs programs. 58 percent of the programs tracked by CHN made gains in the past year – 111 programs in all. Funding increased for child care, substance use disorder, homeless assistance grants, and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which provides home-delivered meals to low-income seniors. In program after program, including housing, education, job training and health services, there were at least modest increases in the past year.

But CHN Executive Director Deborah Weinstein warned that the good news could be temporary. She noted that under the two-year Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019, the increase allowed for Fiscal Year 2021, which takes effect Oct. 1, is much smaller than the funding provided for the current fiscal year. Capped funding for domestic and international appropriations rises only by $5 billion, to $626.5 billion; another $6.2 billion is available because the extra decennial census spending will have ended and there is an increase in mortgage insurance fees that help fund housing programs.

But that surplus could be entirely consumed by a sharp rise in veterans’ health care costs, which have increased 48 percent over the past decade, Weinstein said. She added that other necessary increases in spending, such as to cover rising rent costs in subsidized housing, could easily mean a return of flat-funding and cuts for many needed services.

“Unmet needs remain an urgent concern,” Weinstein said. “Nearly half of households with incomes under $35,000 are paying half or more of their income in rent; 5 out of 6 eligible children still receive no child care assistance; drug overdoses caused more than 70,000 deaths in 2017.”

“Unmet needs remain an urgent concern. Nearly half of households with incomes under $35,000 are paying half or more of their income in rent; 5 out of 6 eligible children still receive no child care assistance; drug overdoses caused more than 70,000 deaths in 2017.”

Deborah Weinstein, CHN Executive Director

And, Weinstein adds, President Trump’s FY 2021 proposed budget would dramatically worsen the picture by dropping domestic and international appropriations well below the amount he agreed to when he signed the Bipartisan Budget Act.

She notes that Trump’s budget would drop domestic appropriations to $595 billion in FY 2021, a whopping $77 billion below all the capped and uncapped funds available for the same programs in the current fiscal year. Under Trump’s budget, domestic and international programs would decline from 3 percent of GDP to 2.5 percent in just one year, and would plummet all the way to 1.4 percent of GDP by 2030.

“Congress must reject these drastic cuts and work to prevent further losses in appropriated programs that serve low-income people,” Weinstein concluded.

To read CHN’s analysis and view the appropriations tables for the past 10 years, go here. To read CHN’s latest Human Needs Report Special Edition, which analyzes Trump’s budget proposal, go here. And click here to visit CHN’s FY 2021 Budget & Appropriations resource page.


The Coalition on Human Needs (CHN) is an alliance of national organizations working together to promote public policies which address the needs of low-income and other vulnerable populations.

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