Let's Get Fiscal: The Cliff, the Compromise and You

A SparkAction synthesis
May 6, 2013

This is SparkAction's comprehensive, live guide to sequester for children and youth advocates. Find out what automatic budget cuts mean to the programs you care about and find the latest news and issues that are pushing advocates to act.

Jump to:   The Latest News  |  Take Action  |  Read & Share Stories of Impact  | March 2013 and Beyond  |  Fiscal Cliff Timeline  |  New Year's Eve Deal

The Latest: Featured News and Commentary

What advocates are talking about this week

Just Plane Crazy: After a public uproar about inconvenient air travel delays due to sequestration, Congress passed a temporary fix to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) buddget cuts at the end of April. If long lines at the airport are an emergency requiring Congress to act to change sequester, how about long lines for housing and Head Start?

SparkAction's Jan takes on sequestration in real-world terms in When the Sequester Hits Home


Read weekly updates on sequester news and daily-updated pages from the Coalition on Human Needs >>


Take Action: Let Your Voice Be Heard on Sequestration

We joined the National Human Services Assembly to help you take action and tell Congress to take a balanced approach to their budget debates-- and be sure to protect children in their decisions.


Stories of Impact

Hear the voices of those effected by sequestration. Have your own to add? Share it:

The Road to Shared Prosperity: A Story Map
Half in Ten, Coalition on Human Needs

MyBudget - How has sequestration impacted you?
Senate Budget Committee

Tell Us Your Story: Impact of Cuts to Job Training Programs
National Skills Coalition

Share Your Story: "Kids, Not Cuts"
National Education Association

Over the Brink: March 2013 and Beyond

Resources on what the March 2013 deal means for the programs you care about.

  • Public education and teachers:  Many school districts and local programs that education low-income students would struggle to survive after sequestration cuts.
  • Infant care and mothers (PDF): Sequestration combined with reductions throughout the past ten years resulted in a $124 million decrease bringing funding for the Title V MCH Block Grant -- which provides support and services to 4.4 million American women, infants and children, including children with special health care needs -- to its lowest level since 1991.
  • Child care and Afterschool: Approximately 30,000 low-income children of working parents would lose child care assistance through the Child Care and Development Block Grant and many more will experience a reduction in services.
  • Teachers and schools: Sequester cuts are already hitting schools that serve military families and Native American reservations. If the FY13 budget allows sequester cuts to continue, more than 7 million of America's neediest students will be affected, and the jobs of tens of thousands of educators put at risk.
  • Low-income families: More than 100,000 low-income families will likely lose housing vouchers.
  • Intergenerational families: Cuts to the National Family Caregiver Support program, affecting 700,000 family caregivers including grandparents and older relatives raising children.
  • Children's mental health: 1,300 youth with severe emotional disturbances will lose access to treatment services.


What Happens When?

Here's an interactive timeline of the fiscal cliff, from the Bipartisan Policy Center.




Featured infographic
Sequestration & Children with Disabilities


Advocates and those who care about children, youth and families, take note. Under The Budget Control Act of 2011, when Congress failed to reach agreement on a deficit reduction plan, it set in motion automatic across-the-board cuts to discretionary spending over 10 years, totaling more than $1 trillion in cuts to defense and nondefense programs. This so-called "sequestration" will make cuts to important programs, regardless of their success, ranging from schools to child care to health coverage ( to name just a few). Programs exempt from these cuts include Social Security, veteran benefits, TANF, food stamps, Medicaid and Medicare (which faces just 2 percent cuts).

No one in Congress or the administration wants these cuts to happen; both parties are working on a compromise to avoid them.  Advocates have to watch the compromise closely to be sure it doesn't unfairly burden effective supports for children and youth in an effort to preserve defense spending.

Here's a summary of what we know so far (updated regularly). For a comprehensive list of the cuts and their impact, check out the White House Office of Management and Budget report from Sept. 2012 and The Center for Budget & Policy Priorities, How the Across the Board Cuts in the Budget Control Act Will Work.

Child Care. According to an analysis by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the families of 80,000 fewer children would receive child care subsidies, making it harder for parents to find work.

Education. According to NAESP: The Congressional Budget Office estimates the Department of Education will be hit with automatic, across-the-board cuts ranging from 7.8 percent in 2013 to 5.5 percent in 2021. Estimates by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities indicate that sequestration could result in 8.4 percent across-the-board cuts. A 7.8 percent cut in 2013 is equal to a $4.4 billion reduction in funding for the Department of Education. Such cuts in 2013-14 school year would result in:

  • $1.1 billion cut from Title I
  • $986 million cut from IDEA
  • $90 million cut from Impact Aid
  • $192 million cut in Teacher Quality State Grants
  • $90 million cut from 21st Century Community Learning Centers
  • $14 million cut from rural education
  • $621 million cut from Head Start

Just three of these -- Title I, special education state grants and Head Start -- serve a combined 30.7 million children.

Health - Maternal & Infant Health. The Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs says that many child and maternal health programs would be cut, including the Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant. If the block grant is flat funded at $645 million in fiscal year 2013, this would equate to a cut of $54 million, bringing the total below $600 million. Additionally, the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visitation Program, the Prevention and Public Health fund and other Affordable Care Act mandatory funding would be cut by 8.2 percent for fiscal year 2013.

Health - Nutrition. According to the SAVE FOR ALL Campaign, estimated conservatively, a year of sequestration cuts will deny WIC nutrition aid to 750,000 mothers and young children.

Health - Vaccinations. The American Public Health Association says life-saving immunizations would be denied to 30,000 children and 20,000 adults. Sequestration will:

  • Increase the risk for deaths and hospitalizations from domestic outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles and whooping cough.
  • Stop the benefits of routine immunization for many children.
  • When children are vaccinated appropriately through the first five years of life, the US gains by the prevention of 42,000 premature deaths and 20 million fewer illnesses.
  • Reduce state-based birth defects surveillance, intervention, and prevention activities. The US will lose national capacity to monitor birth defects and conduct research, limiting opportunities to address this significant public health burden. No other entity in the U.S. exists to fill this gap in a crucial public health service.
  • Eliminate fetal death surveillance programs, which will reduce the capacity to identify causes of and prevent the occurrence of fetal deaths and reduce the capacity to address the significant racial and ethnic disparities in the occurrence of fetal deaths.

Juvenile Justice. The Coalition for Juvenile Justice and the Office of Management and Budget Sequestration would trigger 8.2 percent across-the-board cuts to the Office of Justice Programs and core juvenile justice funding. That translates into a 56 percent percent reduction in federal juvenile justice supports appropriated to states and localities from 2002 to 2013. This means cuts to: Title II, Title V (EUDL and Tribal Youth Programs), JABG, mentoring and other juvenile justice purposes under OJJDP, despite increased expenses and attendant state and local budget cuts.

Youth Employment.  1.6 million fewer adults, dislocated workers and at-­risk youth would receive job training, education and employment services.


New Years Eve Deal

On December 31, 2012, Congress reached an agreement (HR 8: The American Tax Payer Relief Act) to avert the fiscal cliff. The agreement defers the fiscal cliff to March 2013. So, for advocates far and wide, the fight to project human services programs continues.

What does the agreement mean for the issues you care about? How does it affect children, youth, and low-income families? How about your state? Here's a running list of analysis from the experts focused on our top issues: