In August of 2011, the United States Congress formed the “super committee” – a bipartisan group of twelve legislators tasked with finding a way to reduce the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion. When the super committee was formed, they agreed that if they were unable to find a way to cut the budget to the agreed-upon amount, they faced the threat of sequestration: mandatory cuts averaging 8.4 percent in both defense and non-defense spending. This scenario was designed to be so intolerable, that Congress would  make a compromise in order to avoid the sequestration.

In November of 2011, the super committee announced they could not reach a decision. On New Year’s Day of 2013, Congress managed to avoid the initial January 2, 2013 deadline for sequestration with a temporary delay. Unless an agreement about deficit reduction can be reached, however, these automatic cuts will still go into effect on March 1, 2013. The potential nationwide impact of the cuts is dramatic and would affect virtually every area of government, including education, food safety, research and innovation, safety and security, veterans services, and public health.

The impact of sequestration on children would be significant: 70,000 children would lose access to Head Start; mental health services to 373,000 seriously mentally ill adults and children would be cut; Title I education funds would be cut for nearly 1.2 million disadvantaged students; and 30,000 fewer children would receive childcare subsidies. The chart below provides specific information about the potential impact of sequestration on Washington State’s residents.

Program

Impact in Washington State

K-12 Education

11,000 fewer students served, 50 fewer schools funded

Education for children with disabilities

Funding cut for 140 teachers, aides, and staff

Head Start and Early Head Start

1,000 children lose access

Childcare subsidies

800 fewer children served

Vaccines for children

2,850 fewer children receive basic vaccines (ex: measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza, Hepatitis B)

Domestic violence services

Services for up to 500 victims of domestic violence eliminated

Job search assistance

24,510 fewer jobseekers served

 

President Obama will meet with congressional leaders on March 1 to attempt to find a compromise. Although sequestration will officially begin at midnight that night if an agreement is not reached, the cuts will not go into effect immediately. Instead, they will be phased in over the next seven months.

Sources:

“Impact of March 1st Cuts on Middle Class Families, Jobs and Economic Security: Washington”. The White House. http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/sequester-factsheets/Washington.pdf

“Sequestration cuts: White House, Republicans dig in ahead of budget talks”. Chicago Tribune. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-sequestration-cuts-20130227,0,521...