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Sliced by Sequester

PHOTO:  Heating assistance and weatherization programs are among those that could be squeezed by the sequester.
PHOTO: Heating assistance and weatherization programs are among those that could be squeezed by the sequester.
March 13, 2013

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Sequestration, the fancy word for automatic across-the-board cuts, would slice at least $1.2 trillion from the federal budget over the next 10 years. U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, Kentucky's lone Democratic congressman, says a "more sensible approach" is needed.

"Arbitrary, heavy-handed and indiscriminate," he said. "This was done without any regard to the impact that it would have on the programs that are supported and the people they serve."

Community Action Kentucky, which administers several federal programs, is bracing for cutbacks. Mike Moynahan, who oversees the agency's energy programs, said sequestration could devastate heating assistance (LIHEAP) and weatherization.

"The sequester is not a pittance to these families," he said. "These programs are a helping hand for those in need, and it's a shame that in the economy that is still recovering we're leaving our own out in the cold."

The federal government cut funding for heating assistance this winter by 10 percent in anticipation of sequestration, Moynahan said, noting that Community Action helped 17,000 fewer families than during the previous winter.

Citing the February jobs report, which showed that the U.S. economy added 236,000 new jobs, Yarmuth said things are "moving in the right direction" but fears sequestration will damage the nation's economic recovery.

"They come at the wrong time," he said. "When many economists say we should be doing more in the way of emulative activity, we're actually cutting back. This is approaching some of the austerity programs that European countries have found to be so counterproductive."

Across-the-board cuts, Yarmuth said, will mean fewer children will be vaccinated or enrolled in Head Start; some seniors won't receive Meals on Wheels and Kentucky universities will lose medical research dollars.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY