Sequestration impact will be felt by our poorest neighbors

Posted 10 May 2013 at 12:00 am


Most of our citizens may experience little impact of the budget cuts known as “Sequestration,” (i.e., seclusion or separation) of government funding.

However, lower income people all over the country will feel the Sequestration budget reductions. For example, the cuts will reduce the Community Services Block Grant, the core of Community Action since 1964, and will directly affect emergency services, which were delivered to 2,559 families last year in Genesee and Orleans counties.

It is short-sighted to say the least, to cut Community Services Block Grant dollars, which support many services, including the Main Street Store in Albion, which provides job training and skill development in a retail context, and job placement assistance. The store has proven to be a tremendous investment, saving the government more than $4 million in public assistance over the past four years by helping people find jobs and keep them.

The cuts to Head Start will affect an estimated 70,000 children nationwide. These cuts become effective locally on July 1 and will be most noticeable in the fall, when services will be available to fewer families. This reduction will hurt children, their families and the staff of Community Action of Orleans and Genesee. Community Action currently serves 261 Head Start children in the two-county Head Start program.

Head Start provides kindergarten readiness skills in a safe classroom or home settings, hot nutritious meals, health and disability screenings and support, transportation, non-violent problem-solving skills, parent education, referrals and opportunities.

The cuts will create long-term harmful effects for those affected locally. Multiple national studies have shown that “Children that have been through Head Start and Early Head Start are healthier, more academically accomplished, more likely to be employed, commit fewer crimes, and contribute more to society.”  Studies indicate that every $1 invested in Head Start produces a Return On Investment (ROI) ranging from $7 to $9.  As James Heckman, a Nobel Laureate in Economics at the University of Chicago, recommended to the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Reform, “Early Head Start and Head Start are programs on which to build and improve – not to cut.”

Head Start and other non-defense discretionary programs a small part of the federal budget are not the cause of our growing debt. Congress needs to act quickly to restore fiscal stability and maintain funding for our at-risk children.  Our nation’s budget simply cannot be balanced on the backs of poor children and their families.

As Board chairwoman, I speak for the board and staff at Community Action of Orleans and Genesee and I urge you to contact our senators and Congressional representatives to express your concern about the damage that will be done to these programs that have successfully served our residents in need for nearly 50 years.  Making the call or sending an email is far less difficult than facing the long-term community impact of these reductions.

Grace Denniston
Chairwoman Board of Directors
Community Action of Orleans and Genesee, Inc.