Sequestration's Impact On America's Poor
We are now 11 days into the sequester cuts that went into effect on March 1, 2013. As a result, the latest political game in Washington of finger pointing has continued while also debating how serious the cuts really are. In the grand scheme of things the cuts are modest when you look at our $16 trillion in debt as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) stated.
Despite how modest the cuts may be, they still will have an impact on the lives of people and the poor will disproportionally feel this. Yes, the military will face cuts and the more affluent travelers may face longer lines in our airports but the cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) alone will impact the poor more than anyone else. No matter how modest the sequester cuts are in relation to the national debt, they will have a drastic impact on the poorest Americans.
A quick look at the impact the sequester will have on HUD will allow you to see the impact that will be felt by the poor. 125,000 families that include the elderly and disabled could lose their housing assistance vouchers that help cover the cost of rent. Without this assistance, they may struggle to cover the full cost of their rent and be left homeless. Another 100,000 formerly homeless people which includes veterans could be forced to return to the streets due to cuts to HUD's Continuum Care Program which helps these individuals find housing and move to self-sufficiency. These families and individuals do not have resources to fall back on as Sheila Crowly of the National Low Income Housing Coalition stated.
We may also see an uptick in foreclosures that had begun to steady as 75,000 fewer households will receive foreclosure prevention counseling from cuts to housing counseling grants. 1.1 million of the nation's poorest residents could face deteriorating living conditions, as cuts will force public housing agencies to defer maintenance and capital repairs to public housing.
Community development funding that both creates jobs and builds affordable housing both for rental and home-ownership will also be cut. These funds are crucial when it comes to sustaining local communities. In 2012, 21,800 permanent jobs were created or retained through CDBG funds and at least 32.5 million people benefited from facilities funded through this program.
Even digging down into the state impacts, the negative impact on the poor continues. In North Carolina 1,500 children will lose access to critical early education through cuts to Head Start and Early Head Start, and another 1,300 children would lose access to childcare essential for their parents to hold their jobs. 15,110 fewer people will get the help they need finding work including job training with cuts to job search assistance programs. The nutrition assistance for seniors would lose $1.5 million in funding impacting the ability of less fortunate seniors from getting the meal assistance they need.
When you add in cuts to education which also disproportionately impact the poor you can see the devastating impact the sequester is going to have on the poor. In the grand scheme of paying down our national debt and getting spending under control, the sequester is a modest amount. But should impact be measured simply in dollars and cents? Or should we look at the impact the cuts will have on those who do not have resources to fall back on? Yes, everyone will be impacted one way or another by the sequester but no one will be impacted quite like the poor all while the fat cats in Washington who got us into this position remain unscathed.
This piece is cross-posted from PolicyMic.