Feb 22, 2013
Exactly one week from today, $85 billion in automatic, across-the-board spending cuts will wallop the federal budget unless Congress can agree on an alternative way to reduce the nation’s deficit. It’s called the sequester. CWA recently joined AFSCME, AFGE and others in standing together to say, "Jobs, not cuts!" But with no solution in sight, working families should prepare for the worst:
1. Say Goodbye to Workplace Safety
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration could be forced furlough or even lay off inspectors. This would mean some of the country’s most hazardous workplaces would see nearly 1,200 fewer inspections, potentially leading to more injuries and deaths on the job.
2. Watch What You Eat
Foodborne illnesses are a series threat. Just take a look at the E. coli scare that’s recalled spinach in 39 states. If the sequester takes effect, federal agencies may not be able to effectively warn people of the next salmonella in peanut butter outbreak. The Food and Drug Administration would have to conduct as many as 2,100 fewer inspections of food manufacturers, while the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service would be forced to furlough all its employees.
3. Prepare for Education Cutbacks
If Congress doesn’t act, 70,000 children could be kicked out of Head Start, 10,000 teacher jobs could be put on the chopping block, and funding for as many as 7,200 special education teachers, aides, and staff could be slashed.
4. Get a Crash Course in Disaster Preparedness
FEMA could be forced to cut state and local grants that support emergency responders. It would slow down the country’s ability to help victims of natural disasters like Superstorm Sandy. One former FEMA employee said, “If the schools aren’t open, people aren’t going to work. If the bridge is damaged, it takes an extra hour to get back to work. Every time you’re slowing down the recovery process, you’re imposing an anti-stimulus on people who are trying to get through the recovery of an event.”
5. Plan to Get Stuck at the Airport
Cutbacks at the Federal Aviation Administration could mean takeoff delays and fewer flights in general. Many of the 47,000 employees would face a day of furlough per pay period for the rest of the year. “It’s going to be like perpetual bad weather,” said the chairman of the Business Travel Coalition. Plus, travelers could be looking at longer security lines thanks to furloughs at the Transportation Security Administration.
6. Expect a Slowdown in Social Security Services
The Social Security Administration could be forced to reduce service hours to the public and close some offices. That backlog of Social Security disability claims could also be expected to balloon if lawmakers don’t find a fix. Already, because of the current cutbacks, “there’s a lot of people who are seeing their paychecks cut by $100 to $200 a paycheck,” said an AFGE representative who works for the Social Security Administration.
7. Brace for Economic Insecurity
People receiving Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits could lose an average of more than $400 – money that these long-term unemployed families count on while they hunt for jobs. Seniors could receive 4 million fewer meals from federally-assisted programs, and about 600,000 women and children could be dropped from a federal nutrition program. Nearly 125,000 low-income families could lose their housing rental assistance. More than 100,000 former homeless Americans – including veterans – could be driven back into the streets.