A few months ago it was the Fiscal Cliff. Now we have a new economic boogeyman hiding under our national bed, the sequester. But not many Latinos have a clear idea of what sequestration is and how it could impact their communities. The series of automatic spending cuts of about $85 billion are set to go into effect tomorrow unless President Barack Obama and Congress can work out a deal, which does not seem imminent. While there is much debate as to if this another manufactured crisis and mandatory programs like Medicaid and Food Stamps are safe, there remain some real consequences:
1: Less immigrant detentions : Earlier this week Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released some low priority detainees from detention centers citing the country’s financial situation. Department of Homeland Security head Janet Napolitano publicly lamented the sequester meaning not enough money for detention center beds but the administration could score points. Immigration advocates have been saying Obama’s record breaking detention and deportation numbers do not match his immigration reform rhetoric. In 2010 approximately 400,000 non-citizens were detained by ICE.
2: More Crowded Classrooms, Fewer Teachers & Less Early Education : The Department of Education’s Title I program, helping fund public schools in low income communities which tend to be in communities of color, will see $725 million in cuts. The Los Angeles Unified School District alone would see $37 million cut. New York would lose about $42 million.
While President Obama pushed early childhood education in this year’s State of the Union address, Head Start, a pre-school program for poor children with a 33% Latino enrollment rate, would have it’s budget cut by $400 million, resulting in less services for 70,000 children.
3: Reduced access to Housing Help : $1.9 billion in cuts will gut vouchers that help about 125,000 low-income people pay rent. According the the Urban Institute, 23% of those receiving this type of aid are Latinos. In Los Angeles this means that rent subsidies to as many as 15,000 people will be cut an average $200 a month. 75,000 fewer people will receive foreclosure prevention, rental, and homeless counseling services and 100,000 formerly homeless people could be removed from their current emergency shelters.
4: Smaller Unemployment Checks and Less Job Help: Almost four million people who currently receive long-term unemployment benefits will see as much as 9.4 percent less in their checks. According to The National Council of La Raza, Approximately 29 percent of unemployed Latinos receive unemployment insurance.
$37 million would be slashed from a job retraining and placement programs and $83 million would be cut from Job Corps, meaning less provides low-income kids would be able to access jobs and education help. New York and Connecticut alone would lose $1.1 million from programs that help find jobs for unemployed people.
5: Less Food and Reduced Health Services : The Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition program, which provides nutrition assistance like money for for formula and milk could cut 600,000 women and children from it’s rolls. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, that administers the program, about 900,000 Hispanic infants born in the United States participated in WIC in 2008, the last year for which statistics are available.
While Medicaid, which helps poor and working class people access health insurance is protected, public health funding helping children outside the Medicaid get vaccines and helping people access HIV tests is set to be cut. In California alone the cuts are estimated to be around $15 million.
Treatment for adults and children with mental illnesses will be cut back, denying treatment for an estimated 373,000 patients.