By Ken Liebeskind
The $42 billion in federal budget deductions brought about by sequestration legislation for 2013 had a major negative impact on the state of Connecticut and Latinos in particular. And with an Oct. 1 deadline for a possible government shutdown looming, the odds that these hits will continue could be even greater.
A government shutdown could mean further cuts to the nonprofit agencies that many Latino families count on for services, as well as the temporary closure of government agencies they depend on.
“Sequestration hits Connecticut hard and hurts Latino families in Connecticut because there is less money for schools, job training and transportation services,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. “Sequestration helps balance the budget only by balancing it on the backs of poor and middle class families,” he said. “I want to balance the budget and want everyone to pitch in. Families that are struggling shouldn’t be the only ones to be hurt. Sequestration affects programs like nutrition, Head Start and job training that allows struggling families to get back on their feet.”
A 5.2 percent cut in the Head Start program for pr-school age children led to the cuts of 57,000 children from the program nationally – 25,000 Latino children and 4,078 in Connecticut, according to statistics compiled by the National Council of La Raza. Three million dollars in cuts will also put 129 CT Head Start jobs at risk.
“Head Start is very important to the Latino community in New Haven, Hartford and New Britain and has resulted in thousands losing their eligibility,” Sen. Murphy said. He also said cuts to Head Start harm parent as well as kids. “When kids can’t go to school, parents who have to take care of kids can’t work so kids lose out and parents lose out,” he said.
David Morgan, vice president of Team Inc., a community action agency and president of the Connecticut Head Start Association, said the Head Start cuts impacted preschool children from three to five years old who were scheduled to continue their Head Start program or start it for the first time. “Kids couldn’t return and families on the waiting list are still there,” he said, noting that Head Start benefits minorities and the low income population who suffer from an achievement gap the state is trying to address. “The governor added school readiness slots for young children last year that is very good, and now you have the sequestration impact that eliminated spaces for the most vulnerable,” he said.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal also noted the impact of sequestration on Latino families in Connecticut.
“I am deeply concerned by the arbitrary, across the board cuts to public service programs that have occurred as a result of sequestration,” he said. “Cuts to vital public programs like Head Start, Title I funding for public schools, childhood nutrition, public housing and small business loans will result in devastating harm to families across Connecticut, including many Latino families who rely on these valuable programs. That is why I will continue to support efforts to replace the sequester with a balanced approach of smarter spending cuts and revenue raising reforms to our tax code that end special interest tax breaks and hidden subsidies that benefit the wealthiest corporations and individuals.”
The National Council of La Raza statistics outline the problems of sequestration for Latino families in Connecticut. Besides Head Start, here are the impacts of cuts to Latinos:
- Child-Care Development Block Grants – 20 percent of children receiving child care subsidies are Latino with 10,500 losing coverage nationally.
- WIC (Women, Infants and Children) nutrition assistance – 42 percent of participants are Latinos. 3,900 fewer cases in CT handled by WIC.
- Title I Education – 37 percent of Latino kids attend high poverty schools that receive Title I funding for reading and math. 120 teaching jobs in CT are at risk due to $8.7 million in cuts to CT’s Title 1 funding.
- Job training – 30 percent of all youth enrolled in federal job training programs are Latino and 270,000 fewer adults and youth will receive job training and employment services. 9,360 fewer CT job seekers will be served by workforce training.
- Rental assistance – 15 percent of people receiving federal rental subsidies are Latino and 18,000 Latino families will lose tenant-based rental assistance. 1,788 fewer families will be supported by the Housing Choice Vouchers Program, which helps low-income and elderly people afford safe and clean housing.
- Affordable Care Act – 30 percent of Latinos now lack health insurance and six million Latinos gain access to care through the Affordable Care Act with sequestration leading to community health center cuts.
Connecticut will also be harmed by sequestration in these areas, according to Sen. Blumenthal’s figures: 7,272 fewer people in CT will be tested for HIV; 252 fewer women in Connecticut will receive screenings for breast and cervical cancer; and 747 Army jobs in CT will be affected by $108 million in budget cuts.
Most Latino community service organizations in Connecticut have yet to be affected by federal sequestration in 2013.
Yvette Bellow from Latino Community Services said, “For a variety of reasons, the effects of sequestration haven’t been reported. I’m curious why it’s happened. Some fear if you speak up you might get punished.
Angela Powers at the Progreso Latino Fund said, “We receive state funds. For the past three years we have had cuts do the recession, but nothing since.”
Public policy officials in Connecticut lamented the impact of sequestration.
Jeff Shaw, director of public policy at the Connecticut Association of Nonprofits, said, “Across-the board-spending cuts don’t make sense because you treat every program equally. It’s bad policy to treat them that way because there are severe cuts to public housing assistance and HUD money for schools with low income students. I’m afraid the cuts will continue into next year and create problems for nonprofits already on the brink.”
Photo: Kimberly Blozie/CureTalk.org