Letter to the Editor

Sequester has caused much chaos

Regarding the July 1 front-page article “Budget cuts, but no chaos”:

Sequestration is a lot scarier than The Post conveyed if you’re a family unable to get housing assistance, parents coping with their child’s Head Start program ending early or a senior on a waiting list for meals. The article was incomplete in showing the harm already inflicted. The Coalition on Human Needs has compiled a list of the impact of the sequester since March. Families who need housing help are stuck on waiting lists because no rent vouchers are available. Struggling to minimize the harm, many Head Start centers closed early, canceled summer programs, cut back on supplies or reduced benefits or pay for staff to avoid dropping children. With those means exhausted, more programs have no choice but to close classrooms in the fall. The final accounting of how many people will be hurt may not be in, but it is terribly misleading to give short shrift to the thousands of low-income people who have already been affected.

Deborah Weinstein, Washington

The writer is executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs.

The article “Budget cuts, but no chaos” was a stark display of Washington’s head-in-the-sand mentality. The effects of sequester may feel light inside the Beltway, but in communities across the country the impact of the sequester does, in fact, feel like a “meat cleaver.”

For tens of thousands of Head Start families, cuts from the sequester are piling up, and the loss of programs that support housing assistance, food security, child care and more is undermining stability. Head Start programs nationwide have to make heart-wrenching decisions that will slam shut the window of opportunity for our country’s poorest children. Audubon Area Community Services, which serves 16 counties in Kentucky, lost $825,000 because of the sequestration, which means 160 fewer children will attend Head Start and 42 staff members lost their jobs. In Cincinnati’s Hamilton County area, 181 studentspots were eliminated. And in Vallejo, Calif., more than 63,000 hours of educational and family development services will not be offered next year, nor will nearly 46,000 meals.

Head Start directors are doing what they can to limit the cuts that directly affect the number of children in the program, but no one should be think that deferred maintenance and reduced access to health-care screenings are worthy trade-offs. Congress does serious harm by considering options that balance today’s ledger by trading away the futures of poor children.

Yasmina Vinci, Alexandria

The writer is executive director of the National Head Start Association.

Budget cuts, but no chaos” did not paint an accurate picture of the damage caused by sequestration. To describe emergency efforts to postpone the worst harms of sequestration as evidence that agency predictions were “wrong” was short-sighted and ignored the reality that these efforts are not long-term solutions. The article said the administration and Congress “undid many of sequestration’s scariest reductions.” In fact, the reductions were not undone; real cuts were taken, but the short-term reprioritization of other funds by Congress, and, in limited circumstances, by agencies enabled the temporary postponement of some of the worst effects, including the cited furloughs of FBI staff and prison guards. 

Unfortunately, the actions this year are exhausting the ability to take similar actions next year. The problem is not that agencies responsibly took emergency action to avoid the worst effects in the short term, it is that no solution for sequestration has been found for the long term.

The Post also published David Ignatius’s column “Decay in slow motion” [op-ed, June 23]. As the chief financial officer at the Department of Justice and a career civil servant, I can vouch for the accuracy of Ignatius’s view that sequestration is “the slow-motion decay of programs and readiness.” That is why we need a sensible solution to sequestration now.

Lee Lofthus, Washington

The writer is assistant attorney general for administration at the Justice Department.

 
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