Minnesotans start to feel impact of sequestration cuts

9:40 PM, Jun 10, 2013   |    comments
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Early Childhood Education student

MINNEAPOLIS --We haven't heard that word "sequestration" for awhile, but Rico Alexander, who runs the Head Start Program in Minneapolis, has not forgotten about the massive, nationwide federal budget cut.

"We're going to see about 90 children and families lose service because of the cuts," he told KARE 11 a few minutes before Rep. Keith Ellison was scheduled to pay him a visit.

In Hennepin County, the cuts not only mean 90 families lose services, but at least 12 jobs will be cut out of a program that services 2,400 families overall.

Head Start provides education and health services for kids before kindergarten. It also provides vital services for their parents as well. Educators serve those who live below the poverty line.

"Our society is turning its back on them," said Ellison, a Minneapolis Democrat.

He says hundreds of agencies and programs are still sorting through the cuts, noting the FAA survived cuts that were supposed to come to that agency.

"Do the parents of those 90 kids have enough political power to do what the FAA did, which is to make Congress go back and change it?" Ellison wondered.

Statewide, the Head Start Association lost $4.43 million in federal funding in 2013, causing 500 to 600 children to lose services, and up to 120 teachers to lose their jobs.

The Minnesota Department of Health was bracing for sequestration cuts, but hasn't seen them come down yet. It was earlier estimated 2,360 fewer kids might not receive vaccines base on sequestration. A spokesperson tells KARE 11 that's still quite possible. About $507,000 in funds that would be used for combating public health threats is also in jeopardy. Officials expect that cut to come down next month.

Meanwhile, 1,118 National Guard technicians in Minnesota are taking a furlough day each week for 11 weeks because of sequestration. Ellison also notes several job search assistance programs will be hit hard by the federal cuts as well.

"Sequester is not some nameless, faceless deficit reduction," he said.

Perhaps something can be done to save some of the cuts from coming, but the congressman left the media with a warning.

"We can see a lot more happen," he said, meaning more cuts are on the horizon, as agencies start to sort out sequestration.

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