By Sandy Merilan
On Friday March 1, 2013 Congress neglected to act on a series of automatic budget cuts coined the term the “sequester” and now cuts to hundreds of thousands of middle class jobs, and cut vital services for children, seniors, people with mental illness and education have gone into effect. Political terms like fiscal cliff and sequester have been flooding news media, and prior to President Obama’s presidential terms, many of us never heard of them. What exactly is the sequester?
The sequester is relevant this 2013-2014 fiscal season because of an agreed term in the budget 2011-2012 that allowed Congress to pass a law saying that if both parties couldn’t agree on a plan to reach that $4 trillion goal, about a trillion dollars of additional, arbitrary budget cuts would start to take effect on March 1, 2013. The 4 trillion deficit reduction goal was the Obama’s administration budget plan that would attempt to reduce our deficits by more than $2.5 trillion. More than two-thirds from spending cuts and the rest of it was through raising taxes — tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.
But logic and politics are no longer synonymous so government aid and programs that DC residents need will jeopardize many aspects of their daily lives. The sequester will cause District of Columbia to lose approximately $533,000 in funding for primary and secondary education. In addition about 1,000 fewer students would be served and approximately 2 fewer schools would receive funding. In addition, the District of Columbia will lose approximately $925,000 in funds for teachers, aides, and staff who attend to children with disabilities.
There are cuts on the college level. Low-income funding will decrease in the District, seeing about 500 fewer kids who can rely on funding. It’s estimated that students who receive work-study jobs, that also help derail college-funding costs, will drop by about 510. Head Start, a federal program that promotes school readiness of children ages birth to 5 from low-income families, by enhancing their cognitive, social and emotional development, will see its funds cut due to the sequester. Head Start and Early Head Start services would be eliminated for approximately 200 children in the District of Columbia, reducing access to critical early education.
The sequester will also affect public safety and senior aid. The District of Columbia will lose approximately $57,000 in funds to help upgrade its ability to respond to public health threats including infectious diseases, natural disasters, and biological, chemical, nuclear, and radiological events. In addition, the District of Columbia will lose about $330,000 in grants to help prevent and treat substance abuse, resulting in around 500 fewer admissions to substance abuse programs. And the District of Columbia Department of Health will also lose about $324,000 resulting in around 8,100 fewer HIV tests.
Nutrition programs to the elderly will lose approximately $191,000 in funds that provide meals, and could lose up to $13,000 in funds that provide services to victims of domestic violence, resulting in up to 100 fewer victims being served.
Even more, those residents who work for the federal government are now required to take 4 furlough days a month beginning in April and those days will go until July 31st. Furlough days are days off, but without pay. This amounts to 32 hours of pay reduction from one’s bi-weekly check, ultimately a loss in take-home income for the year.
What is Obama’s plan? Since the budget and government distribution of funds it is not in his control, the options the he has are slim and he can only suggest his plan and continue to push a bipartisan compromise.
The Office of Management and Budget, calculates that sequestration will require an annual reduction of roughly 5 percent for nondefense programs and roughly 8 percent for defense programs. Small businesses will lose government aid; these businesses create two-thirds of all new jobs in America. Instead of helping small businesses expand and hire, the automatic cuts would reduce loan guarantees to small businesses by up to approximately $900 million. The private sector, the Economic Development Administration’s will lose ability to leverage private sector resources to support projects that spur local job creation would be restricted, likely resulting in more than 1,000 fewer jobs created than expected and leaving approximately $50 million in private sector investment untapped.
Loss of jobs, school aid and the way residents live will be impacted because of the non-compromise by the country’s elected officials. They have drawn this out with temporary fixes since January 1, but with the sequester has now taken effect and will likely go until , the question now is how long will we have to suffer. 85 billion dollar of cuts are now added to the budget because Congress failed to act.