The Trump administration's plan to change the poverty line would hurt communities who need help the most
© Getty Images

For decades our country has suffered from systemic inequality and racial segregation that continues to prevent millions of African Americans from gaining access to new opportunities. Now, President TrumpDonald TrumpStowaway found in landing gear of plane after flight from Guatemala to Miami Kushner looking to Middle East for investors in new firm: report GOP eyes booting Democrats from seats if House flips MORE is once again attempting to rob African American communities of basic assistance, access to education and quality health care.

The Trump administration is on the verge of making an end run around Congress by attempting to change the federal poverty line. In a recently released proposal, the administration would change how inflation is used to calculate the official federal definition of poverty used by the U.S. Census Bureau to estimate the size of the country’s poor population. This is clearly another attempt to cut people with low- or moderate-income off of government assistance. If successful, the Trump administration would single handedly cause millions of Americans across the nation to lose their eligibility for, or a decrease in, help from health care services, food assistance programs such, as SNAP, and other programs that help working families reach their basic needs.

In health care, the federal poverty level (FPL) income numbers from the previous year are used to calculate an individual’s or family’s eligibility for certain programs and benefits. This includes savings on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace health insurance plans, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage.  By considering lowering the inflation measure to calculate annual adjustments to the FPL, the administration is putting a bullseye on low-income Americans, African Americans who tend to have a low- or moderate-income, seniors, and people with disabilities.


According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, after ten years, more than 250,000 seniors and people with disabilities would lose eligibility for, or see a large decrease in, help from Medicare’s Part D Low-Income Subsidy program. If you’re wondering what that means, let us explain. If President Trump rolls back this guidance, our seniors and people with disabilities would pay higher premiums for their prescription drugs and could pay premiums of over $1,500 per year for their health care coverage.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. This change would also force more than 300,000 children from their comprehensive coverage through Medicaid and CHIP – as well as some pregnant women. In the African American community, just like in other communities across the country, health care costs are directly tied to a family’s economic capabilities. We know that many Americans are still struggling to make ends meet and live paycheck to paycheck. That is why a change to the poverty line would be a drastic hit to working families everywhere. By implementing a slower-rising poverty line, the administration would kick nearly 200,000 working families off SNAP altogether by the 10th year of indexing the poverty line.

And to add insult to injury, more than 100,000 school-age children would lose their eligibility for free or reduced lunch, while about 40,000 infants and young children would lose access to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Woman, Infants, and Children (WIC). Needless to say, President Trump’s plan would sabotage the life-saving programs millions of Americans rely upon to pull themselves out of poverty. In the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “[o]f all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” We cannot willingly stand by and let President Trump erode the moral lining of our great country. Evidence indicates that the current poverty level is already below what is needed to help working families succeed! The administration is looking to undermine our nation’s health care law at the expense of our families, friends and loved ones. As members of the Congressional Black Caucus – we fully understand our role as the conscience of the Congress. With the help of the Congressional Black Caucus Poverty Reduction Task Force: “Building Ladders of Opportunity” led by Reps. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeOverturning Roe would be a disaster for young women of color CBC's pivotal role on infrastructure underscores caucus's growing stature Reforming marijuana laws before the holidays: A three-pronged approach MORE (D-Calif.) and Gwen MooreGwen Sophia MoorePentagon 'aware' of reports Wisconsin military base's struggle to feed, heat Afghan refugees Wisconsin GOP quietly prepares Ron Johnson backup plans Pelosi picks Democrats for special panel tackling inequality MORE (D-Wis.), we will continue to fight against all attempts to roll back the clock and take our nation back to the days where insurance companies could charge working families more or worse – change, deny or drop your coverage.

It is our hope that you will join us and the Congressional Black Caucus in making your voice heard and fighting back for the most vulnerable in our community. 

Bass is chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus; Butterfield is co-chair of the Out-of-Poverty Caucus, a member of the CBC and represents the 1st District of North Carolina; and Horsford is a CBC member and represents the 4th District of Nevada.