Three weeks in, sequester impacts growing

10:48 AM, Mar 21, 2013   |    comments
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(CBS NEWS) -- Three weeks after sequestration officially became the law of the land, debate over the issue has slowed to a trickle: The Obama administration has conceded that the across-the-board budget cuts are likely here for awhile, and Republicans are split over whether or not that's a good thing or a bad thing. But even as the long-term economic impacts of sequestration remain murky, its day-to-day impacts are becoming increasingly evident.

Below, CBSNews.com rounds up a handful of sequestration's impacts to date, from widespread staff furlough notices, to canceled White House visitor tours, to a reduction in early education opportunities for low-income kids.

Furloughs

Because the government mandates that federal employees receive a month's notice before being furloughed, none of the planned furloughs have yet gone into effect. But across the federal government, thousands of workers have been notified that their hours - and their pay - are being cut.

  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued furlough notices to approximately 2,000 employees, who will be required to take up to 11 days of unpaid leave between April 7 and September 30.
  • The Department of Defense sends out its first furlough notices Friday. A spokeswoman for the department said last month nearly all 800,000 civilian employees would be furloughed one day per week.
  • Furlough notices have been sent out at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), proposing furloughs of 13 days or less for employees over the next seven months as a result of sequestration.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture will furlough 6,200 food inspectors for 11 days this summer, starting in July, according to the Iowa Farmer Today. The USDA says that would disrupt meat exports to the tune of $8 billion. A spending bill passed in the Senate Wednesday would provide $55 million to the USDA through September to help avoid these furloughs. The money will be allocated if the House passes the bill today and then gets signed into law by the president.
  • The U.S. Customs and Border Protection has also scheduled its furloughs, according to Fox News Latino, which reports that all 60,000 full-time employees will be furloughed for no more than 14 days starting on April 21.

Military-related cuts

The Department of Defense cites a generally "insidious degradation" of the entire department's capabilities as a result of sequestration, but according to reports, some programs have already taken a hit:

  • Earlier this month, the Army announced it would be suspending a tuition assistance program for soldiers enrolling in classes as a result of sequester cuts. According to USA Today, 250,000 troops will subsequently be denied tuition for enrollment. The Marine Corps, too, has cut its program. However, a spending bill passed by the Senate Wednesday would, if approved by the House today, restore funding for this program through the end of September.
  • Scholarships for the children of troops who were slain in combat have also been slashed as a result of sequestration, according to ABC News. Going forward, the so-called Iraq and Afghanistan War Grants will be reduced by 37.8 percent.
  • According to Maryland's Fort Stewart Patch, the Army's community outreach efforts have slowed down dramatically at Fort Meade, a military installation in Maryland. The Fort Stewart Patch reports that aerial demonstrations and military open houses will be put on hold as of April 1, and the Army Parachute Team will stop performing publicly for the remainder of the fiscal year.
  • The Air Force Thunderbirds, the Nevada-based air demonstration squadron of the United States Air Force, is also grounded as of April 1.
  • House members will also be banned from using military aircraft for trips, according to House Speaker John Boehner.

Unemployment

Some are notifying unemployment claimants that Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) will be cut beginning in. In Pennsylvania, for example, EUC payments will be reduced by 10.7 percent.

Education

While many of sequestration's impacts won't effect education until the next fiscal year, Head Start programs - which provide early education opportunities for lower-income kids - have started reducing their services all across the country:

  • According to the Indiana Journal Gazette, "At least two Indiana Head Start programs have resorted to a random drawing to determine which three-dozen preschool students will be removed from the education program for low-income families," for purposes of managing budget cuts.
  • In Pennsylvania, the funding cuts have limited in the amount of food and supplies Head Start programs are able to provide, and curbed their abilities to buy fuel for buses and transportation, according to the Pennsylvania Daily Review.
  • Head Start programs in Florida and Tennessee have reported similar transportation cuts.

Other services

A handful of other programs have been hit as well, from nuclear plants to the National Weather Service.

  • According to the Associated Press, almost 250 people were laid off this week at Hanford Nuclear Reservation, the nation's most contaminated nuclear site, thanks to sequester-related cuts. 2,500 more employees were given furlough notices of "several weeks."
  • Politico reports that the National Archives will be limiting their hours to researchers starting Friday in order to avoid sequester-related furloughs.
  • Last week, the National Weather Service announced a mandatory spending freeze to management positions, as well as management travel and training.

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