Tuesday, March 05, 2013

What does the Sequester mean for Children, Families and Older Adults?

Last Friday night, after Congress failed to come to agreement on how to avoid across-the-board cuts known as “sequestration,” President Obama signed an order which will put into motion a series of cuts affecting children, youth and older adults. The impact will be particularly evident for those who live in low-income households.

How big are the cuts?

Programs that are not explicitly protected from the sequester will be subject to five percent cuts. However, they will feel deeper (closer to nine percent) since they will now be implemented over a period of just seven months remaining in the fiscal year.

How will this affect children, families, and older adults?

The Administration is starting to share guidance with states and local groups about how they must implement the cuts. Many specifics of the impact are still unknown. Here is what we can expect:

• $18 million will be cut from Section 202 housing for older adults

• $333 million from WIC (affecting as many as 600,000 women and children)

• $115 million from the Child Care and Development Block Grant

• $117 million from the Social Services Block Grant (flexible funding for services to children, older adults and people with disabilities including child and older adult protective services)

• $86 million from Older Americans Act programs, such as senior nutrition and community service employment

• $22 million in Early Intervention Services

• $12.6 million from the National Family Caregiver Support Program affecting 700,000 family caregivers including grandparents and older relatives raising children.
• 2% cut in Medicare reimbursement for skilled nursing and home health care providers

• Substantial cuts to Head Start and Early Head Start affecting an estimated 70,000 children this fall

• $175 million for Low-Income Home Energy Assistance

Note: Some numbers may appear different from previous estimates because they are being implemented over a shorter time frame.

Can Congress stop the cuts now that they have begun?

It is unlikely that Congress will stop the $85 billion in cuts now. The President and Congress will likely negotiate a continuing resolution to keep the government going the rest of the year without rolling back the cuts. Congress could work with the President to negotiate more thoughtful prioritization of the cuts.

What can I do?

Advocates for children, families and older adults should continue to talk to their members of Congress to communicate the importance of these supports across the generations. They should also emphasize the adverse impact such arbitrary across-the-board cuts will have. Hanging in the balance is our children’s future, our capacity to meet the needs of a growing aging population, and our ability to tap the skills of our younger and older generations to improve our communities and economy.