MIAMI - Organizations throughout South Florida are preparing for how the automatic budget cuts taking place March 1 will impact on the region.
Edith Lederberg runs the Aging and Disability Resource Center of Broward County, which disperses federal funds to county programs that help seniors. She said the sequester would cut nearly $4 million statewide from organizations that feed the elderly, and $8 million total to programs that impact seniors.
One of those organizations is Feeding South Florida. It's now increasing efforts to tap into a pool of private donors in anticipation of the potential loss.
"The meals have to come from somewhere," said Paco Velez, chief executive officer of Feeding South Florida.
Lederberg described those cuts as a domino effect. For example, she said, adult day care and some Alzheimer's programs could face staffing cuts, but those programs free a primary caregiver to go to work. If no one is available to care for an elderly parent, a previously employed caregiver may now have to stay home, impacting the overall household budget and that family's ability to contribute to the local economy.
Statewide primary and secondary education would lose $54.5 million in funding, according to the White House, putting hundreds of teachers in jeopardy of losing their jobs. The Washington Post reports 750 teachers in aides in Florida could lose their jobs, 130 schools could lose funding, and $31.1 million could be cut for education for children with diabetes.
Florida would also lose funding for the Head Start program, and 2,700 less students would have access to it.
The state would also lose nearly $1 million in justice assistance grants that support law enforcement. The Department of Defense already announced more than 30,000 civilian employees statewide could be furloughed.
The University of Miami issued a statement regarding the sequestration, saying: "Impacts of the sequestration will be gradual, but profound if fully implemented. It will negatively impact hospital operations, teaching and training, and research. Over time, we would adjust costs and operations to the changing environment."
According to The Washington Post, gross pay reduction stand at $183.2 million, U.S. Army funding cuts at $7.0 million, and Air Force cuts at $23 million. The Navy is looking at $135 million in funding cuts for aircraft-depot maintenance in Jacksonville and four demotion projects in Pensacola, worth $3.2 million, could be canceled.
According to the U.S. Southern Command, Defense Department civilian employees would be furloughed one day a week from April 25 through the end of September. U.S. Southern Command has more than 700 Dept. of Defense civilian employees assigned at its headquarters in Doral, at U.S. Special Operations Command South based in Homestead Air Reserve Base, and at Joint Interagency Task Force South in Key West.
During a tour to Miami International Airport last week, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said the looming automatic budget cuts could force cuts to TSA staffing at airports.
Sen. Bill Nelson said he's worried about less money for maintenance on Air Force planes at Homestead Air Reserve Base and staffing at national parks.
According to the National Park Service, each park would face a 5 percent cut in operational spending. Park directors are considering not filling vacant positions or hiring seasonal workers who help staff attractions during peak seasons.
National Park Service directors don't believe the sequestration will result in park closures.
Cuts to public health in Florida include $1.8 million for public health threat response and $5 in grants to prevent and treat substance abuse, according to The Washington Post. About $509,000 in cuts to vaccines for children could also be made.
In a news release, the White House detailed the cuts Florida faces. President Obama traveled to military country Tuesday to boost pressure on Congress, saying the automatic spending cuts set to begin Friday could deliver a tremendous blow to the nation's economy and defense.
If Congress fails to come up with an alternative plan by Friday's deadline, the federal government will be forced to slash its budget by $1.2 trillion over the next decade with $85 billion being cut in the next seven months alone.
Many federal workers have been told they will get a 30-day notice before the start of a furlough, which means the earliest they could begin is April 1.
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