Community action program head says sequester will impact services

PAINTSVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) - The massive package of federal spending cuts known as the sequester is expected to take effect in just two days. If the sequester goes into effect, more than $1 trillion worth of spending will be removed from the federal budget over the next ten years, mainly from military and social programs. At this point, it seems unlikely lawmakers in Washington will strike a deal to avoid the sequester.

The executive director of the Big Sandy Community Action Program says he is worried what these cuts will mean for people who rely on their services.

The sequester clock is ticking, and come March 1, $85 billion in federal spending will be automatically cut. President Obama's plan to avoid the sequester involves increasing revenue by closing tax loopholes for the rich, but Republicans say that is unacceptable.

"In trying to resolve the problem, and that it to cut spending sensibly, the president refuses to take part in that conversation even, unless we agree in advance to raise taxes," said Representative Hal Rogers, a Republican.

The deadline to reach a deal to avoid the sequester is this Friday, but with no deal in sight, people that administer social programs that rely on federal funding say they are bracing for the worst.

Big Sandy Area Community Action Program executive director Mike Howell says they are already feeling the effects of the sequester. He says BSACAP received ten percent less funding this year for its heating assistance program.

"That put us, our LIHEAP program ending really early this year," Howell said. "We ran out of money January 22, which is the earliest in my 17 years as director that we've run out of money for LIHEAP."

If the sequester goes into effect, Howell expects their Head Start program will lose about $500 thousand.

"Which would amount to probably around 70 to 80 children that would have to be cut from our program," he said.

Howell says there are moral choices in the sequester debate, and he says he hopes lawmakers will take them into consideration.

Big Sandy's Head Start program currently serves more than 1,100 children.

Howell says his program's overall budget will be cut by 14 percent by the end of the year. He says he is worried about the program's future.

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