Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting in the White House on October 21, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Trump Reportedly Trying to Siphon $37 Million From Heating Assistance for the Poor to Fund Coronavirus Response

"Because if we have to prevent the spread of an infectious disease, we might as well take the opportunity to make some poor families freeze."

Jake Johnson

Critics are denouncing it as an unconscionable attack on the nation's poor after reporting revealed President Donald Trump has floated plans to shift $37 million away from a federal program that provides heating assistance for low-income families to help fund the White House's response to the growing coronavirus threat.

The Washington Post's Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman reported Tuesday that the White House informed congressional Democrats that it wants to transfer "$37 million to emergency funding for the coronavirus response from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, which funds heating for poor families."

"After dithering for weeks as the coronavirus spread, the Trump administration has now decided to pay for its belated response by cutting funding for heating assistance for low-income families."
—Evan Hollander, spokesman for House Appropriations Committee Democrats

"Because if we have to prevent the spread of an infectious disease, we might as well take the opportunity to make some poor families freeze," Waldman tweeted, deriding the administration's proposal.

House Democrats, according to the Post, view the LIHEAP cut as a non-starter that could further delay the federal government's response to the coronavirus outbreak. Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Tuesday that the virus could spread rapidly across the U.S. and urged Americans to prepare for "significant disruption in their daily lives."

"After dithering for weeks as the coronavirus spread around the world, the Trump administration has now decided to pay for its belated response by cutting funding for heating assistance for low-income families," Evan Hollander, a spokesman for House Appropriations Committee Democrats, told the Post.

"House Democrats won't allow the president to shut off families' heat in the middle of winter," added Hollander. "We will craft an emergency supplemental that treats this pandemic seriously and provides robust funding without stealing from other important priorities."

As Common Dreams reported Tuesday, the Trump administration's $2.5 billion emergency request to Congress called for $1.25 billion in new money and proposed using over $530 million in unspent Ebola response money to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

Democratic leaders slammed the request as woefully inadequate and said Trump is at least partially to blame for the federal government's lack of preparedness and slow response to the deadly virus.

"For almost two years, the Trump administration has left critical positions in charge of managing pandemics at the National Security Council and the Department of Homeland Security vacant," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement late Monday. "His most recent budget called for slashing funding for the Centers for Disease Control, which is on the frontlines of this emergency."

Meanwhile, Trump and White House officials have publicly downplayed the coronavirus threat and accused the media of intentionally stoking public fears about the outbreak.

"Unfortunately what we are seeing today is a political effort by the Left and some in the media to distract and disturb the American people with fearful rhetoric and palace intrigue," White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement Wednesday.

Trump alleged in a tweet Wednesday morning that MSNBC and CNN "are doing everything possible to make the Caronavirus [sic] look as bad as possible, including panicking markets, if possible." The president announced he will be holding a news conference on the coronavirus with CDC officials Wednesday evening.

The Post reported that Democratic and Republican congressional leaders met Wednesday to "begin designing a large emergency spending package for dealing with the coronavirus outbreak." Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday unveiled a plan calling for $8.5 billion in new funding to fight the coronavirus.

"This proposal brings desperately-needed resources to the global fight against coronavirus," Schumer said in a statement. "Americans need to know that their government is prepared to handle the situation before coronavirus spreads to our communities. I urge the Congress to move quickly on this proposal. Time is of the essence."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Supreme Court Denies Trump Bid to Conceal Records From Jan. 6 Panel

One government watchdog group welcomed the decision as "a huge win for transparency."

Jessica Corbett ·

Jayapal, Lee Resolution Promotes More Peaceful US Foreign Policy

"It's far past time we take our foreign policy into the 21st century," said Rep. Barbara Lee. "We should be leading with diplomacy and human needs as the path to global security."

Brett Wilkins ·

Anti-War Veterans Group Issues Its Own 'Nuclear Posture Review'

Released ahead of a Biden administration report, the assessment warns that the danger of nuclear war is greater than ever.

Jessica Corbett ·

Critics Warn Puerto Rico Debt Plan Will Lead to More Austerity

"The island's ability to resume growth and avoid cuts in anti-poverty programs are both chief concerns," said one economic justice advocate.

Julia Conley ·

Faith Leaders, Rights Groups to Biden: End Immigration Detention

"People are losing their lives to a detention system that simply does not need to exist," said one immigrant rights advocate.

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo