After speaking about sequestration to parents for a few minutes, Lowey noticed that they looked puzzled. She realized that few could understand her.
“I said, ‘Does anybody speak English?’ ” she recalled. “Then I asked them if their children were teaching them English, and there was laughter and they raised their hands.”
In Denver, the Mi Casa Resource Center is losing 10 percent of its federal funding. The organization helps Latinos, primarily women, start or expand businesses. Last year, it assisted 650 businesses, from food trucks to cleaning services, that generated $10 million in overall revenue, Executive Director Christine Marquez-Hudson said. The cuts mean turning away people who are trying to become self-sufficient, she said.
“These are people who have no other resource. What are they going to do? Become homeless,” she said. “It’s just creating more social problems. Instead, we could be putting people to work.”
Crocker noted that Congress quickly canceled cuts to air-traffic controllers amid an outcry from airlines and travelers. But lawmakers have not protected social programs from sequestration.
“We’re talking about basic, rudimentary needs — about food on the table, going to the doctor,” Crocker said. “We’re not talking about having to wait an extra hour at the airport and read your novel or play with your iPad.”
Matt Barreto, a Latino-politics expert at the University of Washington, said that “almost everyone saying the sequester didn’t seem so bad is an upper-middle-class, professional, college-educated white person.”
“The people getting hit by these cuts across the board are people in the lowest rungs,” Barreto said. “People who depend on the safety net for month-to-month living. They’re outside the circles of public policy analysts and pundits.”
In Westchester County, an organization called WestCOP runs 23 Head Start programs, including the Whitney Young center in Yonkers, for children 6 weeks to 5 years old. Roughly 70 percent of the 1,749 children who attend all the centers are Latino, said Ellen Farrar, who is in charge of the group’s early-childhood programs.
“We have very rich here and very poor. There’s almost no middle class,” she said. “The very rich often have people to help them, and that’s very often Hispanic people.”
The sequester sliced $800,000 from WestCOP’s $13 million annual budget, Farrar said. She canceled field trips, furloughed employees and trimmed jobs.
When that wasn’t enough, Farrar decided to shutter the Whitney Young center, which served 58 babies, toddlers and preschoolers. Eighteen have been transferred to another Head Start center in Yonkers; the rest are out of luck.
About 10 staff members are losing their jobs as a result of the closure — the first time Farrar has shut a facility in 42 years of running Head Start programs.
“If I cut every single program, I would affect everybody’s quality,” Farrar said. “We talked about it over and over and decided to do it this way.”
Cammacho, the pregnant mother, said Head Start helped diagnose a speech delay in her 4-year-old son, Adriel, and got him the therapy he needed. Adriel will be able to transfer to the other Head Start center in Yonkers.
But Cammacho is at a loss about what to do for her other son, 19-month-old Hamiel, or her third child, due next month. One private group in Yonkers, the Greyston Foundation, will be able to absorb some families, but its child-care program is too far away for Cammacho.
Many of the parents at Whitney Young have no sense of what is causing the cuts; none have heard of sequestration. “Does it have to do with Cuomo?” asked Yahjaira Artiles-Leon, a mother of two, referring to Andrew M. Cuomo, New York’s Democratic governor.
Lilin Escobar, a 28-year-old immigrant from Guatemala, is trying to secure a new place for her son, Patrick, who is just shy of 2. Her older daughter, Irma, attended the Whitney Young Head Start program and is headed to kindergarten.
A single mother, Escobar works part time in a Cuban restaurant where she makes salads and says she earns $10,556 a year. The average cost for child care in Westchester County is $12,000 a year.
“I don’t earn enough to pay a babysitter or one of those expensive day cares,” Escobar said. “I can barely make ends meet now.”
Luz Lazo contributed to this report.