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Reagan budget cuts spare 'truly needy'

By Richard J. CattaniStaff correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor / February 11, 1981



Washington

President Reagan has given his first indication of those "needy" Americans who will be spared his administration's budget austerity cuts. Some $201 billion in so-called entitlement benefits for the retired, veterans , and youth -- earmarked in the Carter administration's $739 billion budget for fiscal 1982 -- will be protected by the Reagan administration when it outlines its new economic plan next week.

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The "truly needy" are those Americans "solely dependent on government benefits to survive," a White House spokesman said.

In a report to the President in a Cabinet- level session Feb. 10, David A. Stockman, director of the Office of Management and Budget and spearhead of the spending-slash action, said the OMB and Cabinet department task forces had identified 90 percent of the reductions to be revealed by Mr. Reagan Feb. 18.

The safeguarding of entitlements spending is intended to fulfill the President's campaign pledge to protect both "essential programs" and "benefits to the needy," a spokesman said. Changing the spending allocations would require changes in federal law, which the administration does not intend to propose.

To be protected:

* The basic social security retirement program, affecting 32 million retired workers, dependents, and survivors. President Carter had budgeted $140 billion for fiscal 1982 starting this October. The cost-of-living allowance, based on the current consumer price index, will not be changed. Decisions have yet to be made on other social security programs, such as college loans to survivors.

* Veterans Administration benefits totaling $13 billion for nearly 5 million people.

* The school lunch program -- $2.1 billion for 9.5 million students.

* Medicare -- $45.4 billion in services for an anticipated 28.6 million persons.

* The Headstart program -- $950 million for 374,000 preschool, inner-city, low-income or disadvantaged youths.

* Supplemental security income -- $7.9 billion for 4.2 million blind, elderly poor, or disabled persons.

* Summer youth jobs program -- $870 million for 665,000 youths.

Later this week, President Reagan will again meet with his Cabinet economic team "for an hour or two" to make more budget de cisions, a spokesman said.