What the sequester could mean for Michigan middle-class families

The sequester threatens hundreds of thousands of Michigan middle-class jobs, and cuts vital services for children, seniors, people with mental illness, and our men and women in uniform.

One of the most pressing challenges Americans will face in the coming months is the sequester, sometimes referred to as “sequestration.”

Simply put, this is a process that automatically cuts the federal budget across most departments and agencies. The cuts threaten hundreds of thousands of middle-class jobs, and cuts vital services for children, seniors, people with mental illness, and our men and women in uniform.

According to The Washington Post, the cuts are evenly split between domestic and defense programs, with half affecting defense discretionary spending (weapons purchases, base operations, construction work, etc.) and the rest affecting both mandatory (which generally means regular payouts like Social Security or Medicaid) and discretionary domestic spending.

For Michigan residents, sequestration may include the following impacts:

  • Teachers and schools: Michigan will lose approximately $22 million in funding for primary and secondary education, putting around 300 teacher and aide jobs at risk. In addition, about 25,000 fewer students will be served and approximately 80 fewer schools will receive funding.
  • Education for children with disabilities: Michigan will lose approximately $20.3 million in funds for about 240 teachers, aides and staff who help children with disabilities.
  • Work-study jobs: Around 2,490 fewer low-income students in Michigan will receive aid to help them finance the costs of college and around 1,300 fewer students will get work-study jobs that help them pay for college.
  • Head Start: Head Start and Early Head Start services will be eliminated for approximately 2,300 children in Michigan, reducing access to critical early education.
  • Protections for clean air and clean water: Michigan will lose about $5.9 million in environmental funding to ensure clean water and air quality, as well as prevent pollution from pesticides and hazardous waste. In addition, Michigan could lose another $1.5 million in grants for fish and wildlife protection.
  • Military readiness: In Michigan, approximately 10,000 civilian Department of Defense employees will be furloughed, reducing gross pay by around $67.7 million in total. In the Army, base operation funding will be cut by about $14 million in Michigan.
  • Law enforcement and public safety funds for crime prevention and prosecution: Michigan will lose about $482,000 in Justice Assistance Grants that support law enforcement, prosecution and courts, crime prevention and education, corrections and community corrections, drug treatment and enforcement and crime victim and witness initiatives.
  • Job search assistance to help those in Michigan find employment and training: Michigan will lose about $1.7 million in funding for job search assistance, referral and placement, meaning around 54,400 fewer people will get the help and skills they need to find employment.
  • Child care: Up to 900 disadvantaged and vulnerable children could lose access to child care, which is also essential for working parents to maintain a job.
  • Vaccines for children: In Michigan around 4,400 fewer children will receive vaccines for diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza and Hepatitis B, due to reduced funding for vaccinations of about $301,000.
  • Public health: Michigan will lose approximately $944,000 in funds to help upgrade its ability to respond to public health threats, including infectious diseases, natural disasters and biological, chemical, nuclear and radiological events. In addition, Michigan will lose about $2.9 million in grants to help prevent and treat substance abuse, resulting in around 3,500 fewer admissions to substance abuse programs. Michigan Department of Community Health will lose about $315,000, resulting in around 7,900 fewer HIV tests.
  • STOP Violence against Women program: Michigan could lose up to $209,000 in funds that provide services to victims of domestic violence, resulting in up to 800 fewer victims being served.
  • Nutrition assistance for seniors: Michigan will lose approximately $1.8 million in funds that provide meals for seniors.

On March 9, the President during his weekly address discussed how Americans can come together to end the sequester in order to keep growing the economy. President Obama said that the “North Star” or driving force in replacing the sequesters harmful, arbitrary budget cuts, will be through reducing the budget by investing in areas that helps America grow, and cutting what we don’t need. This means asking ourselves three questions every day:

  1. How do we make America a magnet for new jobs?
  2. How do we equip more of our people with the skills those jobs require?
  3. How do we make sure that [our] hard work leads to a decent living?

Listeners were cautioned that making progress on these issues, “Won’t be easy, will be filled with contentious debate, and honest disagreement between principled people who want the best for this country”.

However, the President reminded listeners that this type of debate is what makes America strong, stating, “Ultimately what makes [Americans] special is when we summon the ability to see past those differences, and come together around the belief that what binds us together will always be more powerful than what drives us apart.”

In the end, America was founded on “We the people.” If you have ideas that you would like to share, why not take time to exercise your rights? Contact your elected officials and let them know what you think. American’s are blessed with this freedom. But don’t just call to complain. Michigan State University Extension recommends that before you pick up the phone or hit the send key on that e-mail, give some thought to creative, innovative ideas or solutions that you believe will help to move America forward. It’s your right – and your responsibility as an American citizen. Creativity and innovation is what America was built on – it’s in our DNA. This isn’t about being Democratic or Republican. It’s about working together for America’s most important resource: The families, children, grandchildren and societies most vulnerable that are depending on your input and civil engagement.

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