EFFECTS OF THE SEQUESTER Part 2

ABSTRACT: The $85 billion across the board budget cuts that went into effect on March 1, known as the sequester, are significantly affecting individuals, families, children, and public sector functions. The following list of some of the sequester’s effects is a continuation of my post of 9/16/13 and is drawn from the Coalition on Human Needs extensive compilation of reports from on-the-ground, front-line service providers and other sources.

The sequester’s budget cuts are having the following effects (among others): 1) the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services is cutting its reimbursements to community cancer clinics for cancer treatment drugs below the actual cost of the drugs; 2) civilian medical staff at military medical facilities are losing significant income because of sequestration furloughs and therefore are quitting; 3) many school districts will be increasing class sizes, reducing instructional and non-instructional staff, reducing professional development and academic programs, and/or deferring textbook purchases; 4) 57,000 fewer children will participate in Head Start and Early Head Start, services will be reduced by 1.3 million days, and 18,000 staff will either be laid off or face reduced pay or hours; 5) the federal court system’s budget has been cut by $350 million leading to layoffs of public defenders, delays in trials, and cuts in mental health treatment, drug treatment and testing, and offender monitoring; 6) hundreds of thousands of low income mothers and their young children have lost nutrition benefits; 7) roughly 300,000 students with disabilities will receive reduced services; 8) Meals on Wheels has delivered hundreds of thousands fewer meals for tens of thousands of seniors; and 9) housing assistance has been cut or denied for tens of thousands of families.

FULL POST: The $85 billion across the board budget cuts that went into effect on March 1, known as the sequester, are significantly affecting individuals, families, children, and public sector functions. The following list of some of the sequester’s effects is a continuation of my post of 9/16/13. The Coalition on Human Needs has been compiling reports of the sequester’s effects from on-the-ground, front-line service providers, as well as from national reports and sources. Here are some “highlights” from their extensive compilation: [1]

  • The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services is cutting its reimbursements to community cancer clinics for cancer treatment drugs below the actual cost of the drugs. As a result, the clinics have two choices: they can send Medicare patients to the hospital for treatment or they can continue to serve patients but take a loss on drug costs. Given tight budgets, many clinics are sending their patients to hospitals where taxpayers pay $6,500 more each year for cancer care and seniors pay $650 more in co-pays than they would at community cancer clinics.
  • Civilian medical staff at military medical facilities are losing significant income because of sequestration furloughs and therefore are quitting. The Army and Air Force combined have lost 3,300 doctors, nurses and other medical staff, about 6 percent of their total. Medical facilities’ hours of operation have been reduced and certain non-emergency medical procedures delayed.
  • The sequester’s cuts will affect many school districts this fall. In a survey of 541 school districts in 48 states done by the School Superintendents Association, 86% indicated they would be implementing cuts, including: increasing class sizes (48%), reducing instructional staff (53%), cutting non-instructional staff (47%), reducing professional development (59%), reducing academic programs (33%), and deferring textbook purchases (33%).
  • Due to the sequester’s cuts, 57,000 fewer children will participate in Head Start and Early Head Start this fall, the early education programs designed to close the school readiness gap for disadvantaged children. In addition, services will be reduced by 1.3 million days at Head Start centers and 18,000 staff will either be laid off or face reduced pay or hours. Programs also closed early at the end of the last school year, canceled summer programs, shortened daily hours of operation, and/or reduced services such as transportation. The concentration of Head Start services in poorer states and cities means that very poor communities and their children will be hit hard by these cuts, which will likely have life-long impacts on them and increase the challenges facing their schools.
  • The federal court system’s budget has been cut by $350 million by the sequester. This has resulted in layoffs of public defenders and furloughs of up to twenty days without pay. There have been delays in trials, reductions in lawyer training, and less funding for research, investigation and expert help. Several courts are not holding trials on Fridays to adapt to the reductions. If cases cannot be processed in accordance with the Speedy Trial Act, they may have to be dismissed. The number of federal probation officers has declined 7 percent since 2011, to approximately 6,000, despite an increase in the number of offenders in the probation system. In 2012, 187,000 offenders were supervised by these probation officers, and the number is expected to rise to a record 191,000 by 2014. Probation and pretrial services, including mental health treatment, drug treatment and testing, and offender monitoring, have all been cut.
  • The sequester’s cuts to food programs have meant that hundreds of thousands of low income mothers and their young children have lost nutrition benefits, which could do long-term harm to the health and school readiness of the children.
  • Hundreds of millions of dollars of sequester cuts mean that roughly 300,000 students with disabilities will receive reduced services.
  • Because of sequester cuts, Meals on Wheels has delivered hundreds of thousands fewer meals for tens of thousands of seniors. Transportation and other services for seniors have been cut.
  • Housing assistance has been cut or denied for tens of thousands of families due to the sequester. Some families have lost their housing assistance, some are being asked to pay more, and already long waiting lists and times (measured in years in many places) have grown. Maintenance of public housing and staff at housing agencies have been reduced.

I strongly urge you to call your US Senators and your Representative to tell them that the sequester’s budget cuts are harmful and unwise. Tell them that there are smarter and fairer ways to reduce the federal budget’s deficit.

(You can find out who your Congress people are and get their contact information at: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm for your Senators and http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ for your Representative.)


 

[1]       The Coalition on Human Needs’ extensive compilation of the sequester’s effects is available at: http://www.chn.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/completesetofsequesterreports.pdf.

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