Residents protest proposed Republican budget cuts to Medicaid, raising Social Security age 

Residents protest proposed Republican budget cuts to Medicaid, raising Social Security age 
Protestors march outside of Rep. Anthony D'Esposito's Garden City office. (Photo by Taylor Herzlich)

Nassau County residents and non-profit advocacy groups demanded Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-Island Park) denounce a Republican Study Committee budget proposal that includes cuts to Medicaid and a possible rise in the Social Security age requirement.

The RSC budget proposal includes a $4.5 trillion cut in federal spending for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program over 10 years with the use of block grants.

These block grants would cap federal funding at a certain amount for states’ Medicaid costs despite actual costs, according to the Georgetown Center for Children and Family.

The budget document also suggests making “modest adjustments to the retirement age for future retirees to account for increases in life expectancy,” though the exact changes to the Social Security age requirement are not specified in the document.

“Rep. D’Esposito, you’ve been silent long enough,” said Dylan Wheeler, the District 4 director for non-profit watchdog Empire State Voices. “Speak up for the people of Long Island. Speak up for your constituents and speak out against this horrendous budget.”

D’Esposito, who is not a member of the RSC, said he would not support Medicaid or Social Security cuts.

“Empire State Voices and their progressive allies lie to voters about my record as a scare tactic,” D’Esposito told Blank Slate Media in a statement, “but I have been clear since my first day in Congress that I will reject any attempts by either party to cut Medicaid or Social Security and that promise still stands.”

County residents, union members and advocacy groups including Make the Road Action, Social Security Works, Communication Workers of America and more marched along Seventh Street in Garden City before stopping outside of D’Esposito’s campaign office for a rally organized by Empire State Voices. Empire State Voices is a non-profit focused on fighting for fair economic policies and holding representatives accountable.

Marchers carried signs, sang songs and chanted phrases including “What do we want? D’Esposito out. When do we want it? Now” and “D’Esposito be afraid. Keep your hands off Medicaid.”

“We’re not gonna stop coming out until we ensure he hears us and understands that we are paying attention to every move he’s making, every vote that he’s taking,” Empire State Voices Executive Director Maria Martinez said. “We want to make it clear, not only to him, but to also everyone out here in the community, these are the harmful things he’s been doing and he has a track record of siding with extremists.”

That need for awareness is why the non-profit sent a truck with a mobile billboard around Garden City that read “House Republicans JUST proposed raising the retirement age” and implored residents to call D’Esposito and tell the congressman to denounce the RSC budget.

A representative of the non-profit said the proposed RSC budget suggests raising the Social Security retirement age from 67 to 69 and making some of former President Trump’s 2017 tax cuts for the wealthy permanent.

Nassau County resident Yehobani Villalobos is a maintenance worker at a golf course who recently took on a second job as an Uber driver. He said it is becoming near impossible to afford living on Long Island.

“It is frightening to think that in the case of an emergency, Long Islanders like me might not have access to help from the government programs like Medicaid and food assistance despite working so hard for decades,” Villalobos said through a translator.

Michael Gendron, a Long Island board member of the Communications Workers of America, said raising the age of retirement is an unfair move by politicians who are not affected by the change to the same extent as labor workers.

(Courtesy of Empire State Voices)

“For the RSC’s friends and cronies on Wall Street, for their CEO pals in corporate America, these changes won’t change a damn thing about their retirement in their golden years with their golden parachutes,” Gendron said. “It is one thing to ask a lawyer or a hedge fund manager to work longer before retirement, but it is unreasonable and unconscionable to ask a plumber, a laborer, a nurse or home health aide to work later in life [because] the work they do takes a toll on their bodies.”

The RSC document includes statements from RSC Chairman Kevin Hern that the budget does not cut benefits or raise premiums for Medicaid recipients and that retirement benefits will not be changed for any senior in or near retirement, though it does not specify what changes will take place for future Social Security recipients.

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