Under the looming sequester, teachers, aides and staff who help children with disabilities would lose approximately $36.3 million in funding.
February 26, 2013Beginning March 1 devastating automatic federal spending cuts, known as the sequester, will take effect and cut $85 billion worth of funding to essential protections and services along with threatening hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout the country.
In New York state, education, public health and environmental protection programs are among those to be hit hardest, according to the White House, which held a telephone conference with New York reporters Monday afternoon to discuss the effects of the budget cuts.
In 2011, Congress passed a law stating that if both the Republican and Democratic parties could not agree on a plan to reach $4 trillion in deficit reductions, a figure economists estimate needs to be cut in order to stabilize the nation's finances, $1 trillion of additional arbitrary budget cuts would immediately take effect starting March 1.
President Barack Obama, in a speech last week, talked about the automatic cuts set to take effect.
"The whole design of these arbitrary cuts was to make them so unattractive and unappealing that Democrats and Republicans would actually get together and find a good compromise of sensible cuts as well as closing tax loopholes and so forth," Obama said. "And so this was all designed to say we can't do these bad cuts; let's do something smarter. That was the whole point of this so-called sequester," he said.
The sequester, as of yet, has failed to inspire its main task of creating a dialogue between both parties in Congress.
As March 1 inches closer, Congress still has yet to come to any new agreement and many are starting to worry about the consequences. Senior Administration Officials to the White House, Jason Furman, the principal deputy director of the National Economic Council and Amy Brundage, deputy press secretary for the Economy, have helped to release state-by-state reports on the impacts slated to take effect.
New York state, according to that report, is set to lose approximately $42.7 million in funding for primary and secondary education. Additionally this would put nearly 600 teacher and aide jobs at risk while causing 120 fewer schools to receive funding. Teachers, aides and staff who help children with disabilities would lose approximately $36.3 million in funding.
"We should be building an economy where students have more of an opportunity where we are investing in education from higher education to pre-k," Brundage said in a phone interview. "With the idea of these cuts across the board going into effect, that is why we feel there is a definite need for congress to act. We can reduce the deficit and we can do so in a way that protects higher education to make sure that kids who want higher education are able to access that and make it a reality."
Public health is also in line for some upsetting cuts. In New York alone, the sequester would cause 7,170 fewer children to receive vaccines for diseases such as measles, rubella, tetanus, mumps, whooping cough, Hepatitis B and influenza due to reduced funding. New York would also lose $1,070,000 in funding for response to public health threats including infectious diseases, natural disasters, nuclear and radiological events. In addition, grants that help prevent and treat substance abuse, which directly result in over 6,000 fewer admissions to substance abuse programs, would lose almost $6 million while all of New York's health departments would lose a collective $2,726,000 resulting in over 68,000 fewer HIV tests.
If this doesn't sound bad enough already, New York is also slated to lose almost $13 million in environmental funding that typically helps to ensure clean water and air quality, as well as helping to prevent pollution from pesticides and hazardous waste. Army base operation funding would lose $108 million with roughly 12,000 civilian Department of Defense employees being furloughed, or placed on temporary unpaid leave.
Across the nation, the sequester would cut non-defense programs by 9 percent and defense programs by 13 percent.
"These cuts would have macro-economic consequences; nationwide hundreds of thousands of jobs would be lost," Furman said during the phone interview. "It is going to have an adverse affect on everything that we can do to defend our country. We are obviously trying to do the best we possibly can, we want to minimize the impact in every area as much as possible. There is no good, there is no efficient way to do cuts of this magnitude."
When asked which of the cuts will be felt sooner than others, Furman went on to explain that while the $85 billion in cuts will be spread out over seven months, not everything can be held off until the final month. Many of the cuts will be felt immediately. Furman estimates that cuts to unemployment insurance checks will face a cut "as soon as administratively practical." Those who receive unemployment insurance checks would begin losing 10 percent on weekly checks.
Of those in Congress who have yet to agree on a plan to reduce the deficit, Republicans are receiving the harshest criticism due to their refusal to ask the wealthy to pay more through the closing of tax loopholes. Obama discussed in his speech his willingness to enact comprehensive tax reform that would cancel specific tax loopholes and deductions for the wealthy, without needing to raise any tax rates.
"I believe such a balanced approach that combines tax reform with some additional spending reforms, done in a smart, thoughtful way is the best way to finish the job of deficit reduction and avoid these cuts once and for all that could hurt our economy, slow our recovery and put people out of work," Obama said.
If Congress does not agree on a plan to reduce the deficit, these cuts will begin taking immediate effect beginning Friday.