Cuts to critical job retraining skills for unemployed Americans. Reduced help for struggling readers in elementary school. Fewer meals for seniors. Less food for starving children in far flung countries.
These are just some of the effects of the deep federal budget cuts, also known as sequester, that went into effect on March 1. Details of the effects are listed in a new report released Tuesday by the NDD United, which represents about 3,000 non defense groups fighting to end sequester.
The report comes a day before a panel of lawmakers will meet to consider the 2014 budget. One of the panel's decisions is whether the U.S. government will shrink, end, or go ahead with a second round of sequester cuts -- this time $110 billion -- slated to hit mid-January. The March sequester sliced $80 billion from defense and nondefense programs this year..
"The decisions of 535 people at the Capitol ... can have devastating effects on Americans," said Emily Holubowich, co-chair of NDD United.
Already, the sequester is "creating a drag on an economy still struggling to recover from the Great Recession," the report said. And it will only get worse, reaching deep into many communities around the country and even overseas.
In Washington, sequester slashed a $3.2 million grant from the Washington Reading Corps program in Seattle, which trains tutors to work with kids who are struggling to read from pre-kindergarten to sixth grade. This year, there were only 56 trainees, down from 260. In Missouri, cuts will force the St. Louis County Workforce Investment Board to turn away 300,000 unemployed people from re-training programs. More 9 million participated in the program in 2010.
In Georgia, it led to a 20% funding cut for Senior Citizens, Inc., a program that delivers meals to poor seniors in Savannah, creating a waiting list of 600 seniors.
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In Indiana, one pre-school program held a lottery for children to get into Head Start, a program the educates toddlers. The cuts are everywhere. A separate report found that 57,000 children have been cut from Head Start programs.
The cuts also reached foreign shores. In 2013, some 571,344 fewer malnourished children in developing countries received "nutritional interventions" to prevent permanent damage caused by starvation. At the Blue Ridge Parkway, which spreads from Virginia through North Carolina, sequester sliced $1.2 million. It led to a hiring freeze and a cut in maintenance positions. Now there are 159 members in the parks staff, down from 241 full-time staffers. The park has also deferred repair work to drainage systems. Phil Francis, a recently retired superintendent of the parkway said lack of maintenance was responsible for a "completely preventable" landslide which cost the government $6 million in repair costs. Fewer dollars are going to scientific and medical research, hurting hundreds of projects. The head of the National Institutes of Health has said sequester forced the agency to award 640 fewer competitive research grants in 2013 compared to the year before.
The NDD United group called the report the "first comprehensive look" at the impact of sequestration across several sectors. NDD groups that helped pay for the report include the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, American Heart Association, Council on Undergraduate Research and Goodwill Industries International, among others.
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