One in Four Americans Still Suffering From the Sequester

1 in 4 Americans Still Suffering From the SequesterSequestration has been in the news ever since it was instituted as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011. A skyrocketing number of programs are being impacted by the policy, a series of automatic budget cuts that are geared toward reducing the deficit. For example, Meals on Wheels in Broward, Florida, has had to cut 500 meals per day, and Head Start programs are expected to cut access for about 57,000 children. In addition to being concerned about the programs themselves, we should worry about the potential impact on workers in industries that depend on Federal money.

Because of the sequester, there are days on which employees are not allowed to come into work, and are therefore not paid. These rules have already affected our judicial system: federal public defenders are being furloughed, leaving destitute defendants with less access to legal council, while judicial staffs are cut, and court security services are limited.

Furloughs have also begun affecting military installations. Massachusetts' Hanscom Air Force Base is requiring civilian employees to take Fridays off from July to September, which will result in up to a 20% pay cut for about 2,000 employees. Fort Benning, the sixth largest military base in the country, is facing a 25% cut to its budget, which will affect the military command. The future does not look much brighter. Because of the unbalanced approach to sequestration, the Pentagon is being asked to cut $20 billion from its budget next year.  

The far reach of sequestration's impact is evident in recent poll results. While only 8% of people polled by CBS News in May reported that the sequester had hurt them significantly, 22% of respondents to a July poll by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal reported that they were significantly impacted by the budget cuts. One can only imagine what the numbers will look like as cuts continue to grow in size and duration.

The sequester has already damaged government programs and employees, and the future looks even more challenging. We need to address the crisis that sequestration is causing for workers, and do so long before Washington resolves its differences.