If Congress does not take bipartisan action on the federal budget this week, “sequestration” (DC-speak for deep, mandatory budget cuts) will go into effect.   The budget cuts amount to $85 billion and will have disturbing effects on the economy, the nation’s poor, and the work of the Vermont Foodbank.

In Mother Jones, Erica Eichelberger  (“12 Ways the Sequester Will Screw the Poor,” 2/25/13) outlined several impacts nationwide, including:

  • “Public housing subsidies: $1.9 billion in cuts would affect 125,000 low-income people who would lose access to vouchers to help them with their rent.
  • “Foreclosure prevention: 75,000 fewer people would receive foreclosure prevention, rental, and homeless counseling services.
  • “Emergency housing: 100,000 formerly homeless people could be removed from their current emergency shelters.
  • “Educational programs: Learning programs for poor kids would see a total of $2.7 billion in cuts. The $400 million slashed from Head Start, the preschool program for poor children, would result in reduced services for some 70,000 kids.
  • “Rural rental assistance: Cuts to the Department of Agriculture would result in the elimination of rental assistance for 10,000 very low-income rural people, most of whom are single women, elderly, or disabled.
  • “Nutritional Assistance for Women & Children: The government’s main food stamp program is exempt from cuts, but other food programs would take a hit. Some 600,000 women and children would be cut from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which provides nutrition assistance and education.”

Additionally, TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program) storage and distribution funding would see a $2.4 million cut.  This funding cut would reduce food banks ability to store and distribute food at a time of increased demand.

In the Burlington Free Press, Nancy Remsen (“White House Lists Potential Sequester Impacts in Vermont,” 2/25/13) drilled down to the Vermont specifics:

  • “Vermont would lose approximately $1,128,000 in funding for primary and secondary education, putting around 20 teacher and aide jobs at risk. In addition about 2,000 fewer students would be served and approximately 10 fewer schools would receive funding.
  • “In addition, Vermont would lose approximately $1,440,000 in funds for about 20 teachers, aides, and staff who help children with disabilities.
  • “Head Start and Early Head Start services would be eliminated for approximately 100 children in Vermont, reducing access to critical early education.
  • “Up to 100 disadvantaged and vulnerable children could lose access to child care, which is also essential for working parents to hold down a job.
  • “Nutrition Assistance for Seniors: Vermont would lose approximately $204,000 in funds that provide meals for seniors.”

Additionally, civilian employees with the Department of Defense would be furloughed, job training and placement services would be cut, financial aid for low-income Vermont college students would be limited, and support for substance abuse and crime prevention, as well as support for domestic violence survivors would be slashed.

Sequestration may save the federal government money this week, but it will put millions of Americans at risk for food insecurity next week and beyond.  And the increased need for funding and services, through unemployment, 3SquaresVT, WIC, the Vermont Foodbank  and our network of 270 food shelves, meal sites, shelters, senior center and after-school programs, will just rise again.

The Coalition on Human Needs has put together a fact sheet related to Vermont programs and proposed cuts.  You can download it here.

The Coalition also has a quick and easy e-mail form to contact our legislators.  Use your voice and please encourage your friends and family, especially in other states, to use this form and voice their opinion to their representatives now.