Last updated: February 23. 2013 2:47PM - 1224 Views

Children leaving the Luzerne County Head Start on Beekman Street in Wilkes-Barre walk to their bus on Friday. Cuts caused by the sequester could affect the nearly 1,200 children enrolled in the program in Luzerne County.
Children leaving the Luzerne County Head Start on Beekman Street in Wilkes-Barre walk to their bus on Friday. Cuts caused by the sequester could affect the nearly 1,200 children enrolled in the program in Luzerne County.
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If the sequester goes into effect on March 1, it will be President Barack Obama who will decide what gets cut and by how much.
The White House Office of Management and Budget has released a list of the “automatic cuts” that will happen unless the gridlocked Congress comes to an agreement at the 11th hour.
U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Hazleton, said Thursday that some $85 billion will be cut in 2013 alone – 50 percent in defense cuts and 50 percent in discretionary spending areas.
Pennsylvania could see more than $1 billion in defense cuts, with Tobyhanna Army Depot facing an estimated $309 million in cuts.
According to the OMB, the sequester “threatens thousands of jobs and the economic security of the middle class.”
Here are the OMB’s projections on how some services would be affected:
• Head Start and Early Head Start services would be eliminated for about 70,000 children, reducing access to early education.
Community and faith-based organizations, small businesses, local governments and school systems would have to lay off more than 14,000 teachers, teacher assistants and other staff.
In Pennsylvania, 689 Head Start jobs would be lost and 3,305 fewer children served. In 2012, Head Start funding in Pennsylvania was $262.6 million; in 2013, funding would be cut by $20.5 million.
In Luzerne County, Head Start has nearly 1,200 children enrolled.
• Federally assisted programs such as Meals on Wheels would be able to serve 4 million fewer meals to seniors. These meals contribute to the overall health and well-being of participating seniors, including those with chronic illnesses that are affected by diet, such as diabetes and heart disease, and frail seniors who are homebound.
The meals can account for 50 percent or more of daily food for the majority of home-delivered meal participants.
• The Federal Emergency Management Agency would need to reduce funding for state and local grants that support firefighter positions and state and local emergency management personnel, hampering the nation’s ability to respond to natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy and other emergencies.
• Cuts to special education funding would eliminate federal support for more than 7,200 teachers, aides and other staff who provide instruction and support to preschool and school-aged students with disabilities.
• The Social Security Administration would be forced to curtail service to the public and reduce program oversight efforts designed to make sure benefits are paid accurately and to the right people.
Potential effects could include a reduction in service hours to the public, the closure of some offices and a substantial growth in the backlog of Social Security disability claims.
• About 600,000 women and children would be dropped from the Department of Agriculture’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) from March through September. As a result, at least 1,600 state and local jobs could be lost.
• The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Housing Choice Voucher program, which provides rental assistance to low-income families, would face a significant reduction in funding, which would place about 125,000 families at immediate risk of losing their permanent housing.
People receiving Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits would see their benefits cut by as much as 9.4 percent.
Affected long-term unemployed individuals would lose an average of more than $400 in benefits that they and their families count on while they search for jobs. Smaller unemployment checks also will have a negative impact on the economy as a whole.
• More than 100,000 formerly homeless people, including veterans, would be removed from their current housing and emergency shelter programs, putting them at risk of returning to the streets.
• Up to 373,000 seriously mentally ill adults and seriously emotionally disturbed children could go untreated.
This would likely lead to increased hospitalizations, involvement in the criminal justice system and homelessness.
• Cuts to operating expenses and expected furloughs at the IRS would result in the inability of millions of taxpayers to get answers from IRS call centers and taxpayer assistance centers and would significantly delay IRS responses to taxpayer letters.
The IRS would be forced to complete fewer tax return reviews and would experience reduced capacity to detect and prevent fraud, resulting in an inability to collect and protect billions of dollars in revenue annually.

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