Thursday, February 7, 2013

Sequestration Begins March 1, 2013

John J. Drew, President/CEO,
Action for Boston Community Development

We all breathed a sigh of relief when the U.S. Congress passed The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 on January 1, 2013, and immediate “sequestration” budget cuts were avoided. But that relief was short-lived.

Now community action—and many other federally-supported programs—once again face the threat on March 1 of $110 billion in automatic budget cuts per year over ten years, or “sequestration.” (The January 1 “fiscal cliff” deal pushed this deadline ahead from the original January 2 date.)

If Congress and the administration do not find a way to avoid sequestration, immediate, automatic cuts to our programs will take place. The government talks about 5.1 percent budget reductions for this current fiscal year, which will be squeezed and magnified into the remaining 7 months. Then, for each of the 9 more years, these indiscriminate, across-the-board, cuts will continue until $1.1 trillion is slashed from the federal budget.

This cut will apply to the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), Head Start, Fuel Assistance, Child Care, Housing, Health Services and many other interconnected programs and services that we provide. This type of government by automatic pilot is dangerous, especially to the most vulnerable in our nation.

Elected officials need to go on the record if they choose to remove poor children from Head Start programs, if they decide that elders must go without heat in the winter, if they make decisions that cause people to go hungry or fall into homelessness. They need to take responsibility for their decisions. The automatic cuts poised to fall on the most vulnerable in our far less than equal society will decimate those already 50 yards behind who are hurting and hungry and homeless through no fault of their own.

Right now the March 1 cuts are real and automatic and will take an enormous toll on the lives of the people served by community action programs in Massachusetts and across the nation. The cumulative effect is that millions of households will be devastated. The safety net that protects so many Americans will be destroyed, along with opportunities to move up the ladder of economic opportunity and pursue the American dream.

Community action and non-profit programs are not the only ones to suffer if these cuts take place. Medical research, air traffic control, food inspection, environmental protection and the national infrastructure of highways and bridges are just a few of the key programs and institutions that will experience huge losses.

We continue our strong advocacy for the people we serve and for the economic policies that will enable their lives to improve and our important work to continue. We must do all that we can to push the government to swerve again from the fiscal cliff and avoid terrible pain for people across the nation, especially those in need.