FIXING THE SEQUESTER’S BUDGET CUTS

ABSTRACT: The impacts of the $85 billion, 5% across the board budget cuts that went into effect on March 1st (known as the Sequester) are being felt. The cuts to air traffic controllers caused flight delays, so Congress acted with rarely seen speed to provide funding for them.

However, other impacts of the sequester, which are having far more significant effects on people’s lives than having a flight delayed, are being ignored by Congress. It is estimated that almost 60,000 young children will lose or receive reduced Head Start and Early Head Start services. Grants for child care subsidies have been cut, which will undermine the ability of parents to work and the school readiness of an estimated 28,000 children. The estimated impacts of other cuts include: lost nutrition benefits for 600,000 mothers and their young children, reduced K-12 education supports for 1.2 million disadvantaged children, fewer meals for tens of thousands of seniors, and 4,000 fewer AmeriCorps and VISTA volunteers. Unemployment benefits, vouchers for rental housing assistance, and health care funding have also been cut.

I urge you to email, write, or call your representatives in Congress and the President to say that it’s nice to fix the sequester’s impact on flight delays, but it’s much more important to fix the significant, negative impacts the sequester is having on people’s daily lives, on our children and their education from birth onward, on seniors’ ability to live independently, and on the ability of low income families and the unemployed to make ends meet.

FULL POST: The impacts of the $85 billion, 5% across the board budget cuts that went into effect on March 1st (known as the Sequester) are being felt. As you’ve probably heard, the cuts to air traffic controllers caused flight delays. So Congress acted with rarely seen speed and in just two days passed a bill that shifts money from airport improvement projects to provide funding for the controllers. The meat industry, the Pentagon, and the Homeland Security and Justice Departments also got some relief from the sequester’s cuts in the bill. [1]

However, other impacts of the sequester, which are having far more significant effects on people’s lives than having a flight delayed, are being ignored by Congress. Here are some examples: [2][3]

  • Early childhood care and education:
    • Head Start and Early Head Start, which provide families in poverty with school readiness enrichment for children under 5 and other support, are cutting services. Some are closing early and some are shutting down for 2 – 3 weeks. Others are laying off staff and serving fewer children, with some conducting lotteries to determine which children will be asked to leave. This is potentially harmful to children’s brain development, which is likely to negatively affect their success in school and their ability to be productive workers in the future. Nationally, it is estimated that almost 60,000 young children will lose or receive reduced services.
    • Grants to the states for child care subsidies have been cut. Therefore, states will offer less help to low income families to pay for child care. This will undermine the ability of parents to work and the school readiness of an estimated 28,000 children.
  • Nutrition for mothers and their young children: It is estimated that 600,000 low income mothers and their young children will lose nutrition benefits. This could do long-term harm to the health and school readiness of these children.
  • K-12 Education: School teachers, aides, and literacy and remedial specialists are being laid off. In particular, the Title I program that provides funding to schools serving high numbers of low income families has been cut by $726 million, which is estimated to affect 1.2 million disadvantaged students and 10,000 school staff members.
  • Unemployment benefits: The federal government advised states to cut their unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed by 10.7% in the first week of April or make larger percentage cuts later. In California, for example, where unemployment is 9.6%, 400,000 long-term unemployed workers, whose average weekly check is $297, will receive a cut of $52 a week.
  • Housing: Vouchers for rental assistance are being cut. Some recently issued vouchers are being rescinded and some subsidized tenants are being asked to pay more toward their rent. Waiting lists and times (measured in years in many places) for housing assistance are growing. Tens of thousands of families will be affected.
  • Services for seniors: Transportation services for seniors are being cut and some senior centers are being closed. Meals on Wheels will deliver hundreds of thousands fewer meals for tens of thousands of seniors.
  • Health care: Local clinics, the most convenient and cost-effective places to get health care, are cutting services, forcing patients to travel longer distance to access more expensive services at hospitals. Hospitals and health care organizations will lose $11 billion this year. Non-profit hospitals that serve large Medicare populations will be disproportionately affected.
  • Community service: 4,000 of 80,000 AmeriCorps and VISTA volunteers will be cut.

The impacts of the sequester’s cuts to social and human service programs are difficult to quantify and describe because they are in numerous programs and grants, and are happening differently in each state, in each city, and in each agency and program as these entities struggle to implement the cuts with the least harm possible.

Meanwhile, Congress, including prominent deficit hawks, is insisting that the military spend almost half a billion dollars on tanks that the Pentagon doesn’t want to save 700 jobs at a General Dynamics plant in Ohio. General Dynamics, by the way, spent $11 million on lobbying last year. [4]

I urge you to email, write, or call your representatives in Congress and the President to say that it’s nice to fix the sequester’s impact on flight delays, but it’s much more important to fix the significant, negative impacts the sequester is having on people’s daily lives, on our children and their education from birth onward, on seniors’ ability to live independently, and on the ability of low income families and the unemployed to make ends meet.


[1]       Grant, D., 4/16/13, “Before members rush for airports, Congress ends sequester flight delays,” The Christian Science Monitor

[2]       Zero to Three, 4/26/13 and 4/8/13, “The sequester’s pain: Air travelers get relief, little kids not so much,” and “When babies share the burden – How the sequester is affecting young children,” Baby Policy Blog of Zero to Three

[3]       Coalition on Human Needs, April, 2013, “Sequester impact factsheets,” http://www.chn.org/background/save-state-fact-sheets/

[4]       Lardner, R., 4/29/13, “Army says no to tanks, but Congress insists,” Associated Press in Daily Times Chronicle

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