Think Progress: 12 Programs Congress Refuses to Save From Sequestration

Jet-setters protected from government cuts. Thanks for nothing. This is from “Think Progress.”

12 Programs Congress Refuses to Save From Sequestration

As they were rushing to board their flights home for the weekend, Senators and members of Congress pushed through a bill to allow the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to reshuffle funding in order to avoid the flight delays caused by FAA furloughs due to the sequester.

Unfortunately for millions of Americans who cannot afford to get on a plane, Congress has yet to repeal the disastrous and devastating cuts to important programs for the poor, mothers, children, and many others.

A flight delay is inconvenient, not being able to receive your cancer treatment is a matter of life and death. Here’s 12 important programs that Congress has so far refused to save from the sequester’s automatic cuts, even though they’ve been in place for nearly 2 months. By contrast, the FAA furloughs caused flight delays for just four days.

1. Long-term unemployment: There are 4.7 million Americans who have been unemployed for longer than six months, but sequestration cut federal long-term unemployment insurance checks by up to 10.7 percent, costing recipients as much as $450 over the rest of the year. Those cuts compound the cuts eightstates have made to their unemployment programs, and 11 states are considering dropping the federal program altogether because of sequestration — even though the long-term unemployed are finding it nearly impossible to return to work.

2. Head Start: Low-income children across the country have been kicked out of Head Start education programs because of the 5-percent cuts mandated by sequestration, as states have cut bus transportation services and started conducting lotteries to determine which kids would no longer have access to the program, even though the preschool program has been proven to have substantial benefits for low-income children. In all, about 70,000 children will lose access to Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

3. Cancer treatment: Budget cuts have forced doctors and cancer clinics to deny chemotherapy treatments to thousands of cancer patients thanks to a 2 percent cut to Medicare. One clinic in New York has refused to see more than 5,000 of its Medicare patients, and many cancer patients have had to travel to other states to receive their treatments, an option that obviously isn’t available to lower-income people. Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) proposed restoring the funding, but the legislation so far hasn’t moved in Congress.

4. Health research: The National Institutes of Health lost $1.6 billion thanks to sequestration, jeopardizing important health research into AIDS, cancer, and other diseases. That won’t just impact research and the people who do it, though. It will also hurt the economy, costing the U.S. $860 billion in lost economic growth and at least 500,000 jobs. Budget cuts will also hamper research at colleges and universities.

5. Low-income housing: 140,000 low-income families — primarily seniors with disabilities and families with children — will lose rental assistance thanks to sequestration’s budget cuts. Even worse, the cuts could likely make rent and housing more expensive for those families, as agencies raise costs to offset the pain of budget cuts, and sequestration will also cut from programs that aid the homeless and fund the construction of low-income housing.

6. Student aid: Sequestration is already raising fees on Direct student loans, increasing costs for students who are already buried in debt. The budget cuts reduce funding for federal work study grants by $49 million and for educational opportunity grants by $37 million, and the total cuts will cost 70,000 college students access to grants they depend on.

7. Meals On Wheels: Local Meals on Wheels programs, which help low-income and disabled seniors access food, have faced hundreds of thousands of dollars in cuts, costing tens of thousands of seniors access to the program. Many of those seniors have little access to food without the program, but Congress has made no effort to replace the funding.

8. Disaster relief: The Federal Emergency Management Administration will lose nearly $1 billion in funding thanks to sequestration, jeopardizing aid for families, cities, and states right as the spring storm season begins. The aid package Congress passed for Hurricane Sandy relief will also see more than $1 billion in reductions.

9. Heating assistance: The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps nearly 9 million households afford their heating and cooling bills. Sequestration will cut the program by an estimated $180 million, meaning about 400,000 households will no longer receive aid. These cuts come on top of $1.6 billion in reductions since 2010.

10. Workplace safety: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has long suffered from a lack of funds, which means its staff is so stretched that many workplaces go without an inspection for 99 years. The fertilizer plant that exploded in West, Texas, for example, hadn’t had a visit from OSHA since 1985. That will get worse, as sequestration will cut the agency’s budget by $564.8 million, likely leading to 1,200 fewer workplace inspections.

11. Obamacare: Sequestration cuts a number of important programs in the Affordable Care Act: $13 million from the Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan Program, or CO-OPs; $57 million from the Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control program; $51 million from the Prevention and Public Health Fund; $27 million from the State Grants and Demonstrations program; and $44 million from the Affordable Insurance Exchange Grants program, or the insurance exchanges.

12. Child care: Child care costs can exceed rent payments or college tuition and waiting lists for getting assistance are already long. Yet sequestration will reduce funds even further, meaning that 30,000 children will lose subsidies for care. For example, Arizona will experience a $3 million cut to funding that will force 1,000 out of care.

7th Annual Christmas Caravan for the Homeless Set for Clinton Library

Sandra Wilson sent this over and it is my pleasure to post it in full. Marie (who has a personal devotion to the homeless population) and I expect to take part.

Little Rock – The 7th Annual Christmas Caravan will take place on December 22nd with Santa and the Caravan of gifts arriving at 8:30 a.m. in the parking lot of the Clinton Presidential Library.

The Christmas Caravan is an annual outreach event that provides basic necessities to homeless adults, as well as gifts of toys and other items for homeless and near-homeless children. The mission of the Caravan is to provide an opportunity for those without homes or resources to participate in the true joy and sharing in this celebration of the Christmas season, and to provide an opportunity for a diverse mix of volunteers to come together in a festive holiday atmosphere to share with the less fortunate in our community.

The Caravan is made up of volunteers who will gather bringing automobiles loaded with coats, clothing, shoes, sleeping bags, blankets and other donations for area homeless, as well as gifts of toys for homeless and low income children who attend the event. Led by Santa Claus, the Caravan will travel parade-style from Heifer International to the Clinton Presidential Library parking lot. The participants are encouraged to decorate their vehicles and wear Christmas-themed clothing to create a festive atmosphere.   Churches and groups will provide breakfast food and drinks to our guests as they arrive.  The River Rail Trolley will provide Free Rides to and from the event from 8 a.m. until noon.  Participants can get on the trolley from any of the stops in the downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock area.

When the Caravan arrives at the Clinton site at 8:30 a.m., gifts will be distributed directly from the vehicles to those who have gathered to participate. Church youth groups will provide Christmas carolling during the event and Santa will have a special place to talk with the children and hand out gifts and goodies.

This will be the 7th year that the Christmas Caravan has taken the celebration of Christmas to the streets. The event has grown in participants, volunteers, and donations every year.  We are blessed with volunteers from youth groups, churches, schools, social organizations, and social services agencies, as well as individuals and multi-generation families. We are thankful for all of our volunteers and donors.

To learn more about supporting or participating in the Caravan, visit our website http://christmascaravan.org/ or contact event organizer Sandra R. Wilson at 501-580-6185 or sandra@christmascaravan.org This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Election 2012: has anything changed?

A good number of reasonable people (including thoughtful conservatives) have proposed that the Tuesday re-election of President Obama represents a watershed event. Many of those offering opinions, often referring to me and my kind as slime, takers, ignorant, non-contributors, and much worse, have announced that the sky is falling. In the words of Lee Corso, not so fast my friend.

Yes, the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. It was passed by the Congress and, as one who has supported health care reform for 20 years, it has some weaknesses. Those who are giving up on America also give up on fixing our problems. If the cost of health insurance, drugs, and treatment were not the highest on earth and if health care were not rationed on the most irrational basis, the topic would have never taken hold. The first step in fixing a problem is admitting there is a problem. America is still a great and intelligent country and there are plenty of people with the brains and vision to work on this issue, if the blowhards would just let them. Since the parties have given up on policy  this is going to be difficult. When all you think about is the next election, and many GOP leaders openly set the top agenda as an electoral victory for themselves and their interests, what kind of outcome do you expect?

I do not think I am a feminist in any formal sense and my tendency is toward the “life” position, but I can tell my elephant friends that you will not get too far when you tell 51% of the population that their needs and opinions do not matter. Just sayin’.

It takes some brass cajones to suggest that your political opponents are “takers” when the prime motivation of your foremost billionaire financial backers is to protect the unconscionable tax breaks that put their rates below the people who do the real work.

Honest Abe had it figured out, “you can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time.” Regular folks know that the plans to keep the elderly, ethnic newcomers, blacks and the poor from voting are brazed attacks on the very values that many men and women came home in boxes trying to defend.

America is changing and it is not all good. As a practicing Christian I am especially concerned, but I have a lot of trouble trusting Roman Catholic bishops. There is a disconnect for people who say from one side of the mouth, “please protect my religious liberty,” while on the other taking away the ability of their non-Catholic employees to exercise the right to conscience and use contraceptives. Yes, it is more complicated than that, but we never get into the deep stuff during election season.

The moral condition of the country is distressing. For some, that amounts to a little dishonesty from the poor and sexual immorality among the lower classes and entertainment elites. Excluded entirely from moral criticism is the class of self-seeking financial executives who steal from the shareholders and ride off on a golden parachute. Truth be told, the poor are held accountable regularly.

Christians have failed miserably to bring the gospel to a nation that has heard of Jesus and rejected him. Evangelicals are in no better condition than the Roman Catholic bishops, although there are bright spots among the faithful in both institutions. Still, the infatuation with politics, nationalism, and materialism is more of a problem than the president that excites so much outrage.

America has been changing and not for the better. Some of this is becoming much more apparent. If the Christian religion is so darned good (and it is!) why not try doing it and turn the other cheek instead of knocking your neighbor on his behind. If Western civilization is so good, promote and reward classical curriculums over for-profit trade schools that happen to offer degrees.

Many people who should be retiring have just about worked themselves to death, kept kids at home past when most would have started their lives and brought their own parents into the household. My generation paid for the “greatest generation” to have the greatest retirement in world history. We paid into Social Security and it is not an “entitlement.” While it is also true that my peers have resisted discussion of things that would assure the solvency of our retirement program, including a more realistic immigration policy, we know when somebody is trying to steal our very lives away (and that means you too, Mr. Obama).

The special interests who are smothering us with their insistence on policy preferences and a free ride on taxes are totally out of control. Some of us have actually heard of the Citizens United decision that allows corporations unfettered “free speech” to pour endless piles of cash into the coffers of politicians who are too willing to take the bribe disguised as a contribution.

The somewhat surprising good news from Tuesday (and it is only a glimmer of a hopeful bright spot( is that many Americans are still willing to work on our problems and, perhaps, even engage with the maggots and slime who hold differing opinions (Hyperbole alert: reader beware).

If people who struggle for a paycheck, and raise kids, and worry about bills can still do a little bit of the hard work of citizenship, then the people in $1000 suits should put on their work gloves and do the same.

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