DeVos Slammed for Proposed Elimination of Special Olympics Funding

The Tommy Trojan statue on USC campus is seen in this file

For a third straight day, Democrats and some Republicans maintained their attack on the DeVos budget plan, which includes sharp cuts to a range of programs - including eliminating $17.6 million for Special Olympics. "Let me say that Special Olympics is an awesome organization, one that is well supported by the philanthropic sector as well".

DeVos said her department had to make "tough choices" on the budget and insisted the Special Olympics should be supported through private donations.

DeVos responded that she was forced to make hard decisions to control spending, but she appeared to be realistic about her chances. She drew attention to the $13.2 billion in state grants, along with an additional $226 million for grants supporting teacher training and research to help students with disabilities.

According to the budget made public on March 11, the department plans to eliminate 29 programs for an annual savings of $6.7 billion. "I was just at the World Games and saw, as I have many times before, what a huge impact the organization has on athletes, their families, and their communities". According to its 2017 financials (the most-recent available on the web), the organization had total revenues of about $149 million, including $15.5 million in federal grants.

"The Special Olympics will be funded", Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House before leaving for a rally in MI.

The four members of Maine's congressional delegation were unanimous in their support for maintaining Special Olympics funding.

Despite her support for funding cuts, DeVos has a personal connection to the Special Olympics: She worked as a mentor for the group, according to the New York Times, and donated some of her secretary salary there past year.

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In a subsequent statement decrying the news coverage of the proposed budget, DeVos said that "given our current budget realities, the federal government can not fund every worthy program, particularly ones that enjoy robust support from private donations".

"For almost 50 years, Special Olympics has helped to remove the stigma and discrimination faced by individuals with intellectual disabilities". Roy Blunt, R-Mo., issued a statement saying that the subcommittee would "not cut funding for the program". "Madam Secretary, I have to say - and maybe it's offensive - shame on you".

As this is the first time that DeVos is testifying before a Democrat-controlled House, she faced more scrutiny and questioning than she previously has.

On Thursday, before a Senate committee, DeVos once again defended the budget cuts to Special Olympics.

"The Special Olympics is not a federal program", she concluded.

John Kasich, the former governor of OH and a 2016 Republican presidential candidate, called the proposal to eliminate Special Olympics funding "outrageous". When Democratic lawmakers pressed DeVos to defend the proposal, which was originally unveiled earlier this month as part of the president's budget request, her response drew swift blowback from legislators and social media users across the country.

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