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Barbara L.
Democrat CA 13

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  • Cbc Hour: The Impact of Sequestration

    by Representative Barbara Lee

    Posted on 2013-03-04

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    LEE of California. Let me thank you for your tremendous leadership and pulling us all together tonight to talk about this impact of sequestration. And I also want to thank our chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Marcia Fudge, for once again sounding the alarm and keeping us on track.



    Let me first just start by saying we need to stop the sequestration, and we need to create jobs, lift the economy and reduce poverty.

    The sequester will impact my congressional district in my home State of California and every single household in America. It will push 750,000 Americans into the unemployment line and slow our entire economy.

    In my home State, for example, it will cut 8,200 children from Head Start and shut the door to college for about 9,600 students. Additionally, 600,000 to 775,000 eligible low-income women and children are going to be denied nutritional assistance because they're going to be cut from the WIC program.

    Sequestration will impact everyone, but it will have a particularly harmful effect on communities of color who were hit first and worst by the Great Recession and have yet to significantly feel the effects of the recovery.

    Let me just read out 10 reasons which were recently highlighted by the Center for American Progress, and why communities of color and the African American community and Latino community particularly should pay attention to sequestration and the impact it will have in these communities.

    First, there are going to be deep cuts to the long-term unemployed and the reduction of benefits will disproportionately affect people of color.

    Extended Federal unemployment benefits remain vulnerable under sequestration, and the long-term unemployed--those out of work and searching for a new job for at least 6 months--could lose almost 10 percent, mind you, 10 percent of their weekly jobless benefits if the sequester goes into effect.

    Now, 13.8 percent of African Americans and 9.7 percent of Latinos are unemployed. Worse than that, 40 percent of unemployed Asians, 38 percent of African Americans and 28 percent of Latinos have been unemployed for more than 52 weeks.

    Secondly, workforce development programs that are vital to communities of color such as YouthBuild and Job Corps face significant cuts. YouthBuild is a program that connects low-income youth to education and training, and it could be cut about 8 percent Cuts to critical job-creation programs such as Build America Bonds are also on the chopping block. This was created in 2009 and provides incentives for infrastructure investments through the Tax Code.

    Fourth, Federal budget cuts under sequestration would quickly mean cuts to Federal, State, and local public sector jobs which disproportionately employ women and African Americans. In 2011, employed African Americans comprised 20 percent of the Federal, State, and local public sector workforce, and women were nearly 50 percent more likely than men to work in the public sector.

    Early child care funding could be cut by more than $900 million, impacting thousands of children of color who benefit from these programs, programs that directly help the most vulnerable families and children such as, as I said earlier, WIC. They're threatened by sequestration.

    Federal education funding cuts will disproportionately hurt students of color. If sequester goes into effect in the way it has been designed, nearly $3 billion would be cut in educational loans, including cuts to financial aid for students and to programs for our most vulnerable youth.

    Cuts to medical research put patients at risk. The National Institutes of Health would lose $1.5 billion in medical research funding, meaning fewer research projects would be aimed at finding treatments and cures for diseases such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, and diabetes, all of which are among the leading cause of death for African Americans.

    {time} 1940 Since 2010, funding for housing has been cut by $2.5 billion, meaning any additional cuts would significantly hurt low-income families and communities. Many housing programs, such as section 8 housing assistance, provide vouchers to low-income families for affordable housing in the private sector.

    Finally, as the Nation continues to endure a cold winter, programs such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps bring down the cost of heating for low-income households, are critical.

    With that, Mr. Speaker, I would like to insert for the Record an article from today's New York Times, headed: ``As Automatic Budget Cuts Go into Effect, Poor May Be Hit Particularly Hard.'' It explains that sequestration cuts, as they are called, still contain billions of dollars in mandatory budget reductions and programs that help low- income Americans, including ones that give vouchers for housing for the poor and the disabled and another that provides fortified baby formula to the children of poor women.

    So I think we need to really listen to the Congressional Black Caucus and understand what this means in terms of vulnerable, marginal communities--communities of color and individuals who were hardest hit by the recession and who have yet to feel any of the economic recovery that has taken place and who are going to now have another hit in terms of the safety net and the quality of life. They don't deserve this. We need to get back to the drawing board and do what is right and what is fair.

    [From the New York Times, Mar. 3, 2013] As Automatic Budget Cuts Go Into Effect, Poor May Be Hit Particularly Hard (By Annie Lowrey) Washington.--The $85 billion in automatic cuts working their way through the federal budget spare many programs that aid the poorest and most vulnerable Americans, including the Children's Health Insurance Program and food stamps.

    But the sequestration cuts, as they are called, still contain billions of dollars in mandatory budget reductions in programs that help low-income Americans, including one that gives vouchers for housing to the poor and disabled and another that provides fortified baby formula to the children of poor women.

    Republican and Democratic lawmakers largely resigned themselves to allowing sequestration--a policy meant to force them to the negotiating table, not to actually reduce the deficit--to take wider effect after it started on Friday. That leaves agencies just seven months to carry out their cuts before the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30. In many cases, they will eventually have to deny aid to eligible needy families.

    Unless a deal is reached to change the course of the cuts, housing programs would be hit particularly hard, with about 125,000 individuals and families put at risk of becoming homeless, the Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated. An additional 100,000 formerly homeless people might be removed from emergency shelters or other housing arrangements because of the cuts, the agency said.

    Local administrators are trying to decide how to put the mandatory 5.1 percent budget cuts into effect by the end of September. Adrianne Todman, the executive director of the District of Columbia Housing Authority, said that no person in her program currently using a housing voucher or living in a public facility would be affected or put out on the street.

    But to absorb the cuts, Ms. Todman plans to defer maintenance and leave staff vacancies open. She may also not be able to fill open public housing units as tenants vacate them. And she may stop rolling over housing vouchers to families on the waiting list. Eventually, she said, she may have to furlough employees.

    ``It's a shame. It's more than a shame, it's despicable,'' Ms. Todman said, noting that her agency already lacked enough capacity to meet the district's needs. ``These are real families that we have deemed eligible and are waiting to receive their voucher from us.'' In Washington and across the country, families and individuals generally need to have very low incomes to be eligible for federal assistance. Public housing residents in Washington have an average annual income of just $12,911. More than 40 percent are either children or the elderly, and more than a quarter live with a disability. In the voucher program, the annual income is even lower, just over $10,000 a year, and similarly large proportions of residents are elderly, disabled or young.

    ``These people are very, very, very poor,'' said Sheila Crowley, the president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, speaking of recipients of federal housing support [[Page H943]] across the country. ``They don't have resources to fall back on.'' In some places, officials have already started carrying out cuts. For instance, King County in Washington State, which includes Seattle, stopped issuing new housing vouchers on Friday.

    ``Sequestration will result in some 600 fewer families in our local communities receiving crucial rental assistance over the next year,'' Stephen Norman, the executive director of the county housing authority, said in a statement. ``Because rents are so high, many of these families may, quite literally, find themselves out on the street.'' Members of Congress have indicated that they might give agencies more discretion in fulfilling the cuts, to help blunt their impact. But policy experts said that in the case of many low-income programs, budget cuts would necessarily mean fewer people get help.

    ``There's no loose change in the cushions,'' Ms. Crowley said. ``Anything you take out of HUD is going to reduce services and cut programs. There's just no fat there. There hasn't been for a long time.'' Other programs that assist low-income families face similarly significant cuts, including one that delivers hot meals to the elderly and another that helps pregnant women. Policy experts are particularly concerned about cuts to the supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children known as WIC, which provides food and baby formula for at-risk families.

    It is considered one of the most effective social programs in government, reducing anemia and increasing birth weights. But up to 775,000 low-income women and their children might lose access to or be denied that aid because of the mandatory cuts, according to calculations by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonprofit research group.

    The start of sequestration, a policy never meant to take effect, has left both sides seeking cover, with many Democrats dramatizing the impact of the cuts and many Republicans playing them down.

    Some Republicans, in fact, have said that whatever the effect, the cuts are a necessary part of reversing the trend of the government spending more and taking on more debt.

    ``President Obama proclaimed that the sequester's `brutal' and `severe' cuts will `eviscerate' America's domestic spending,'' Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, wrote in a recent article published by Investors.com. ``But `eviscerate' is not the adjective I would use; in fact, I believe the sequester is a pittance.'' The $85 billion in cuts is just a small part of the $3.6 trillion annual budget, but policy experts say that even those cuts that are being applied to programs that do not specifically focus on low-income people and communities will disproportionately affect them.

    Other cuts might not hit low-income Americans specifically, but their impact could affect vulnerable families disproportionately. Those include cuts to programs that aid children with special needs; job-training programs that help unemployed people find a new career; foreclosure prevention services; and programs that help 150,000 veterans every year make the transition into the nonmilitary work force.

    They also include a reduction in jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed. Those out of work for more than six months could see their checks shrink by as much as 11 percent.

    The Budget Control Act, a 2011 law that created the automatic cuts, exempted ``mandatory'' spending programs that aid low-income Americans, like Medicaid, which receive automatic federal financing. But it did not exempt ``discretionary'' programs, whose financing Congress determines in its annual appropriations process.

    ____ [Feb. 22, 2013] Top 10 Reasons Why People of Color Should Care About Sequestration (By Sophia Kerby) Thanks to congressional Republicans putting the economy in jeopardy during the debt ceiling debacle in the summer of 2011 and again in 2012, a package of automatic across-the- board spending cuts known as sequestration is set to go into effect on March 1, 2013. Senate Democrats have proposed a balanced approach to resolve this crisis, urging congressional Republicans to avoid the damaging sequester cuts by accepting a package of more tax revenue coupled with targeted spending cuts. But once again Republicans are threatening the economy by risking massive and harmful spending cuts that will hurt the middle class, damage the economy, kill hundreds of thousands of jobs, and harm the most economically vulnerable among us.

    Sequestration will impact all Americans but will have a particularly harmful effect on communities of color, who were hit first and worst by the Great Recession and have yet to significantly feel the effects of the recovery. Our nation's demographics are changing, and communities of color are the fastest-growing group of Americans. It is important that we invest now in these communities, as we prepare for our nation's economic future and upcoming workforce needs.

    Our driving focus should be on averting crises that slow our economy and instead, promoting policies that help all Americans.

    Below are the top 10 reasons why communities of color should pay attention to sequestration and the impact it will have in these communities: 1. Deep cuts to long-term unemployment benefits will disproportionately affect people of color. Extended federal unemployment benefits remain vulnerable under sequestration, and the long-term unemployed--those out of work and searching for a new job for at least six months--could lose almost 10 percent of their weekly jobless benefits if the sequester cuts go into effect next week. These cuts will have a greater impact on people of color, as 9.7 percent of Latinos and a staggering 13.8 percent of blacks are unemployed, compared to only 7 percent of whites. What's more, in 2011, 40 percent of unemployed Asians, 38 percent of unemployed blacks, and 28 percent of unemployed Latinos were unemployed for more than 52 weeks.

    2. Workforce development programs that are vital to communities of color such as YouthBuild and Job Corps face significant cuts. YouthBuild, a program connecting low-income youth to education and training, could be cut by about 8 percent under sequestration. Coupled with previous federal appropriation cuts in fiscal year 2011 by 37 percent, the program could see about one-third of its federal funding cut between fiscal year 2010 and fiscal year 2013. In 2010, 54 percent of YouthBuild participants were African American and 20 percent were Latino. Job Corps, an education and training program geared toward young adults, faces about $83 million in cuts in FY 2013 under sequestration. In 2011, 72 percent of Job Corps participants were people of color.

    3. Cuts to critical job-creating programs such as the Build America Bonds program are also on the chopping block. Build America Bonds, which were created in the 2009 stimulus bill, provides incentives for infrastructure investments through the tax code. Since its inception, the program has helped states and cities fund thousands of job-creating infrastructure projects at lower costs than traditional tax- exempt municipal bonds. Build America Bonds could see budget cuts of up to 7.6 percent, however, if sequestration goes through. Build America Bonds benefit all Americans, as more than $106 billion of Build America Bonds have been issued by state and local governments in 49 states and the District of Columbia since the program started. Infrastructure investments stimulate employment in sectors that employ disproportionately high rates of workers of color, such as construction and public transit.

    4. Federal budget cuts under sequestration would quickly mean cuts to federal, state, and local public-sector jobs, which disproportionately employ women and African Americans. In 2011 employed African Americans comprised 20 percent of the federal, state, and local public-sector workforce, and women were nearly 50 percent more likely than men to work in the public sector. According to the Congressional Budget Office, scheduled cuts in federal spending were the primary driving force behind slow economic growth projected for this year, meaning thousands of lost jobs and cuts to federal contractors.

    5. Early child care funding could be cut by more than $900 million, impacting the thousands of children of color who benefit from these programs. Such cuts will mean 70,000 children will be kicked out of Head Start, a federal program that promotes the school readiness of children from low- income families from birth through age 5. Sixty percent of program participants are children of color.

    6. Programs that directly help the most vulnerable families and children--such as the Special Supplemental Nutriton Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC--are threatened by sequestration. WIC serves as a supplemental food and nutrition program for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women and for children under age 5. The program could be cut by $543 million--a devastating loss to the more than 450,000 people of color who benefit from its services.

    7. Federal education funding cuts will disproportionately hurt students of color. If the sequester goes into effect, nearly $3 billion would be cut in education alone, including cuts to financial aid for college students and to programs for our most vulnerable youth--English language learners and those attending high-poverty, struggling schools--impacting 9.3 million students. Such cuts will affect key programs that receive federally funded grants such as Education for Homeless Children and Youth and federal work study. The lack of access to financial aid for people of color will further exacerbate the student debt rates in these communities. In the 2007-08 academic year, 81 percent of African Americans and 67 percent of Latinos with a bachelor's degree graduated with student debt, compared to 64 percent of their white peers. Cutting access to these vital financial aid programs will curtail the higher education aspirations of tens of thousands of students of color.

    8. Cuts to critical medical research put patients at risk. The National Institutes of Health would lose $1.5 billion in medical research funding, meaning fewer research projects would be aimed at finding treatments and cures for diseases such as cancer and diabetes--both of which are among the leading causes of death for African Americans.

    9. Since 2010 funding for housing has been cut by $2.5 billion, meaning any additional cuts would significantly hurt low-income families and communities. Many housing [[Page H944]] programs such as Section 8 Housing Assistance provide vouchers to low-income families for affordable housing in the private market. In 2011 Section 8 aided more than 2 million low-income families across the country. Data from 2008 indicate that 44 percent and 23 percent of public housing recipients are African American and Latino, respectively.

    10. As the nation continues to endure a cold winter, programs such as the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, which helps bring down the cost of heating for low-income households, are crucial. The Low- Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helped about 23 million low-income people pay their winter heat bills, is in jeopardy of being cut in FY 2013. Low-income communities, which tend to disproportionately comprise of people of color, depend on such programs to make ends meet during these tough economic times.

    In order to avoid significant damage to the U.S. economy-- and particularly to communities of color across the country-- congressional Republicans should agree to a balanced package to replace the sequester and its damaging cuts.

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