Jan's Corner: When the Sequester Hits Home

March 12, 2013

“I’m all for sequester, but what's this about firing Head Start teachers?”

That's what a local resident of my rural county in Virginia said recently. He, like many people, thought the automatic budget cuts from the sequester were a good way to rein in government spending. That is, until the reality hit home—literally—that some employees would lose their jobs, children lose their place in preschool, and teens lose opportunities for summer work experience.

The sequester will have a real and potentially long-lasting impact on kids and young people. Here's what we can do about it.

It may take several months or even a year for the true impact of these cuts to be felt at Head Start programs, WIC agencies, schools and counseling programs for children with severe emotional disturbances (to name just a few affected areas). But that doesn't mean they won't do real harm.

Congress won't do anything about the sequester unless there is a public outcry, and the public won't cry out until they realize what the cuts really mean in their state and their community.

Right now, Congress is preparing a Continuing Resolution (CR) to continue the federal budget and keep government running for the rest of this fiscal year (through September 30). The federal budget is a blueprint of our national priorities. The House budget for the next fiscal year (FY14) was released March 12; the Senate budget is expected March 13. The administration's federal budget plan is coming soon.

What You Can Do

For those of us concerned about children and youth, our job is clear—and SparkAction can help.

Here's a three-pronged strategy to identify and elevate the effects of sequester cuts on local community programs:

  1. Mobilize your friends, colleagues and networks to cosign petitions and contact or visit members of  Congress to detail the risks of sequester to our economic recovery, jobs and supports for low-wage families and youth.
     
  2. Work with local affiliates and agencies to educate and encourage local and state media to report on the local impact of cuts.
     
  3. Write op-eds and Letters to the Editor to explain how local programs are being forced to cut back services, staff and/or outreach.

Some tactics to employ:

  • Urge state and local affiliates and groups to work with local media to highlight and report on examples of sequester hitting home (cuts to WIC families, summer jobs, Head Start teachers, whatever is hitting locally right away).
     
  • In addition, local agencies and organizations can arrange for letters to the editor from members of their Board of Directors, staff or families they serve to identify how real cuts are putting services in jeopardy for kids, youth and families. Op eds can do the same.
     
  • We can also keep mobilizing our base to sign petitions, make calls/emails, and schedule visits along with local folks to meet with staff and members of Congress to detail the needs of the community and the risks that sequester poses to our economic recovery, jobs and supports for low-wage families and youth.

Looking for language to help you craft an op-ed or Letter to the Editor? SparkAction has information on programs in jeopardy.

We also have an easy way to contact your local press to cover this story or submit a letter to the editor. We have action alerts to combine your individual voice with others so you’re not alone.

Share Your Stories

Are you seeing real impacts in your community? Let advocacy organizations and reporters know. Here's how.


Jan Richter is a retired clinical social worker and child psychotherapist, and long-time children's advocate and writes the SparkAction Update. Read her bio here.

 

 

Janis Richter
10

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