Sequestration - let’s explain it - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Sequestration - let’s explain it

Sequester is a series of automatic, across-the-board cuts to government agencies, totaling $1.2 trillion over 10 years. (Source: CNN) Sequester is a series of automatic, across-the-board cuts to government agencies, totaling $1.2 trillion over 10 years. (Source: CNN)
The cuts in the sequester to Federal Education Programs. (Source: Center on Budget & Policy Priorities) The cuts in the sequester to Federal Education Programs. (Source: Center on Budget & Policy Priorities)
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(RNN) – First the "debt ceiling," then "fiscal cliff," and now the latest hot-button phrase you're hearing out of Washington that is giving Americans something to worry about is "sequestration."

Sequestration is Washington's fancy word for forced government-wide spending cuts.

The across-the-board trim aims to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion in the next decade. If Congress takes no action, the spending cuts will be imposed March 1.

How'd sequestration start?

Congress agreed to the Budget Control Act of 2011. Republicans required scheduled cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling, an attempt to get a handle on the growth of the U.S. national debt. The amount owed by the U.S. exploded upward when the 2007 recession hit and now stands at more than $16 trillion.

What happens if no deal is reached?

Federal budget cuts to the tune of $85 billion for 2013 will begin on March 1. That's 9 percent of all non-defense spending and 13 percent of the Pentagon budget in the next 7 months.

Where will cuts fall?

More than $500 billion will be cut from the Defense Department and other national security agencies, with the rest on the domestic side - national parks, federal courts, the FBI, food inspections and housing aid. Medicare providers will see a 2 percent cut.

What impact will it have on federal education programs?

Education funding will be subject to cuts ranging from 9.1 percent (in 2013) to 5.5 percent (in 2021), according to the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities. The cuts will be distributed across various education programs based on current funding levels.

What's protected?

Social Security, Medicaid, Children's Health Insurance Program, food stamps, military personnel and Veteran's Administration.

What about jobs?

The Congressional Budget Office said sequestration can kill 750,000 jobs in 2013 alone and plunge the economy back into recession, contracting gross domestic product by 1.3 percent in the following six months.

Danny Werfel, of the Office of Management and Budget, said putting the sequester into effect would, "cause very significant disruptions that would be felt far and wide across the country."

These are some OMB details:

  • 70,000 children will be kicked off the Head Start program, 10,000 teacher jobs will be "put at risk," and funding for up to 7,200 special education teachers, aides and staff can be cut.
  • Small business loan guarantees will be slashed by up to $902 million.
  • Up to 2,100 fewer food safety inspectors.
  • Up to 373,000 "seriously mentally ill adults and seriously emotionally disturbed children could go untreated," after cuts in the Mental Health Block Grant program.
  • More than 1,000 federal law enforcement agents can be cut.
  • About 1,000 fewer federal criminal cases due to prosecutor furloughs.
  • FEMA may have to eliminate grants that support state and local emergency management personnel and local firefighters.
  • Just in time for tax season, IRS customer service agents will be furloughed, resulting in the "inability of millions of taxpayers to get answers from IRS call centers and taxpayer assistance centers."
  • $130 million will be cut to support tribal health services, law enforcement, education and economic development.
  • 1,200 fewer Occupational Safety and Health Administration workplace safety inspectors.
  • About 600,000 women and children will be dropped from the Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.
  • Approximately 125,000 families will be "at immediate risk of losing their permanent housing" from cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development's rental assistance program.
  • Cuts to programs to combat homeless will displace 100,000 formerly homeless people from shelters and other facilities.
  • 7,400 HIV positive patients will lose access care provided by the AIDS Drug Assistance Program.
  • The National Science Foundation will issue nearly 1,000 fewer research grants, impacting up to 12,000 scientists, while the National Institutes of Health will have to "delay or halt vital scientific projects and make hundreds of fewer research awards."

Sequestration can be avoided, if Congress and the White House agree on a plan to reduce the deficit.

The last time the Senate passed a full fiscal-year budget was April 29, 2009. Instead, it has used short-term fixes to keep the federal government funded.

Tuesday, Obama urged Congress to pass a short-term deal that puts off the cuts, allowing some time for a long-term deficit reduction plan.

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