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Trump seeks to reorganize the federal government (Politico)

16 June 2018


A soon-to-be released report will recommend combining safety-net programs under HHS while also recommending big changes at other agencies.” (Politico 6 June 2018)

“The Trump administration is preparing to release a sweeping plan for reorganizing the federal government that includes a major consolidation of welfare programs — and a renaming of the Health and Human Services Department.

The report, set to be released in the coming weeks by the White House Office of Management and Budget, seeks to move safety-net programs, including food stamps, into HHS, two sources with knowledge of the plan told POLITICO. The plan would also propose changing the name of the sprawling department, while separately seeking cuts at the U.S. Agency for International Development and the State Department.

The $70 billion food stamp program, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is run by the Agriculture Department and makes up the vast majority of the department’s budget. The program helps more than 40 million low-income Americans buy groceries each month.

“You have low-income assistance in a bunch of different shops without one point of oversight and without a whole lot of communication,” said one of the people with knowledge of the plan. “Why not have one federal agency responsible for execution?”

The report, which is expected to recommend big changes at many federal agencies, is almost complete and is expected to be introduced this month, according to one administration official. Sources in and outside the government have been told the rollout will happen in late June. The plan is still being finalized and some of the details could change, but one of the people familiar with the report said the proposal to reorganize HHS has widespread buy-in at OMB.

OMB spokesman Jacob Wood declined to comment on the plan.

The biggest changes outlined by the White House are unlikely to be implemented because moving multibillion-dollar programs and renaming federal departments generally requires congressional action. But the plan, like the president’s annual budget, demonstrates the administration’s thinking on a range of domestic policy issues. It also offers a strong political selling point for the Trump White House as it tries to burnish an image of an administration dedicated to conservative principles and smaller government.

“The administration already put a lot of stuff out in this year’s budget related to cuts, but that was the easy stuff,” the administration official said. “This [report] is the harder stuff.”

It’s unclear exactly how HHS would be reshuffled, but sources said its new name would emphasize programs that provide assistance to low-income Americans, potentially restoring the term “welfare” to the title of the department. HHS — a sprawling Cabinet-level agency that spends roughly $1 trillion annually —already oversees the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which provides cash assistance to low-income people, as well as Medicaid, the health coverage program for the poor that insures more than 70 million Americans.

Although “welfare” is often used to describe many programs that provide aid to low-income people, the vast majority of services provided by HHS are technically considered entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, which serve broad swaths of the public. TANF, however, is a welfare program providing cash assistance to some 1.6 million households.

HHS and USDA referred press inquiries to OMB.

White House officials have been working on their bid to reorganize the government for months — all while keeping an unusually tight lid on the plan. The effort stems from an executive orderPresident Donald Trump signed in March of last year directing OMB to come up with a plan to overhaul the government to make it more efficient. Only recently have some of the ideas begun to circulate outside OMB.

The plan appears to draw, at least in part, from recommendations made last year by The Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank that has deeply influenced Trump’s agenda in his first year and a half in office.

Heritage recommended that all nutrition functions at USDA — including food stamps, nutrition education and school meal programs that serve some 30 million children each day — be transferred to HHS.

“[T]he USDA has veered off of its mission by working extensively on issues unrelated to agriculture. This is mostly due to the nutrition programs,” Heritage wrote in last year’s report about reorganizing the government. “By moving this welfare function to HHS, the USDA will be better able to work on agricultural issues impacting all Americans.”

Moving nutrition out of USDA, where it makes up roughly three-quarters of the department’s budget, would be regarded as a big blow to the profile of the department.

Conservatives are likely to support moving food stamps over to HHS, in part because HHS has been out front on instituting first-ever work requirements in the Medicaid program. Already, HHS has approved work requirements for Medicaid enrollees in four states.

“Generally speaking, we’re in favor of the idea,” said Kristina Rasmussen, vice president of federal affairs at the Foundation for Government Accountability, a conservative group that’s grown increasingly influential among GOP leaders seeking to spend less on welfare programs. “HHS has been doing some pretty exciting things on the work requirements front for able-bodied adults.” ”



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