Region braces for federal spending cuts

Folks at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and beyond were bracing this week for the federal government’s across-the-board cuts known as sequestration to kick in on Friday.

Wes Morrow contributed to this report.

Folks at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and beyond were bracing this week for the federal government’s across-the-board cuts known as sequestration to kick in on Friday.

It’s not just public sector workers, though, that are likely to feel the pinch.

“The people who run the convenience stores, the service stations, the dry cleaners, the restaurants, things like that – they’re going to feel an impact too,” noted Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus during a recent visit to Bremerton.

Some 29,000 civilian Department of Defense workers, including more than 13,000 in Kitsap County, are facing furloughs should the sequestration deadline not be met this week, reducing gross pay by about $173.4 million. The Navy, meanwhile, will face more than $4 billion in cuts above and beyond the $4.6 billion shortfall they are already plagued with due to a continuing resolution in Congress rather an actual budget.

“Every day that Congress refuses to do its job is another day thousands of middle class jobs are put at risk,” Representative Derek Kilmer said this week. “Congress must act before Friday. Families in Washington State can’t afford these non-strategic across-the-board cuts. I call on my colleagues to stop this self-inflicted wound and do what’s right for our economy and national security. Congress must replace this mindless approach with a balanced plan to address our long-term financial sustainability.”

According to Kilmer and the White House, the impacts of sequestration will far-reaching and acute in Washington state. It will have an impact education, environmental quality, military readiness, child care and more. Even folks that don’t have a job already, but are looking for one will be hit hard. Washington will lose about $661,000 in funding for job search assistance, referral, and placement, meaning around 24,510 fewer people will get the help and skills they need to find employment.

Local educators were especially worried.

Patty Glaser with the Bremerton School District said the district would be at risk of losing money in a few key areas: Title I funding for high-poverty schools, Title II funding for teacher development and special education funding.

Anything in the district that is attached to federal funding would be at risk, Glaser said. One such funding source is Impact Aid, which the federal government provides to districts based on their number of students who live on, or whose parents work on, federal property.

Because of the proximity of Naval Base Kitsap to both Bremerton and Central Kitsap school districts, schools in the area could see a dramatic drop in federal Impact Aid after the sequester.

Because of its high poverty rate and number of military-dependent students, Bremerton could see a larger than average cut Friday.

“I don’t know what other districts get in their federal funding,” Glaser said. “But it would be a significant impact on Bremerton.”

All told, according to White House figures, Washington will lose approximately $11,606,000 in funding for primary and secondary education, putting around 160 teacher and aide jobs at risk. About 11,000 fewer students would be served and approximately 50 fewer schools would receive funding. The White House says that 70,000 young children would lose access to Head Start, 10,000 teacher jobs would be put at risk, and funding for up to 7,200 special education teachers, aides, and staff could be cut.

In addition, Washington will lose approximately $11,251,000 in funds for about 140 teachers, aides, and staff who help children with disabilities. Around 440 fewer low income students in Washington would receive aid to help them finance the costs of college and around 180 fewer students will get work-study jobs that help them pay for college. Head Start and Early Head Start services would be eliminated for approximately 1,000 children. Beyond that, up to 800 disadvantaged and vulnerable children could lose access to child care.

Local law enforcement will also be impacted by sequestration. Washington will lose about $271,000 in Justice Assistance Grants that support law enforcement, prosecution and courts, crime prevention and education, corrections and community corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, and crime victim and witness initiatives.

If sequestration takes effect, up to 373,000 seriously mentally ill adults and seriously emotionally disturbed children could go untreated. This would likely lead to increased hospitalizations, involvement in the criminal justice system, and homelessness for these individuals.

Washington will lose approximately $642,000 in funds to help upgrade its ability  to respond to public health threats including infectious diseases, natural disasters, and biological, chemical, nuclear and radiological events. In addition, Washington will lose about $1,740,000 in grants to help prevent and treat substance abuse, resulting in around 3800 fewer admissions to substance abuse programs. And the Washington State Department of Health will lose about $174,000 resulting in around 4,300 fewer HIV tests.

In addition, Washington would lose about $3,301,000 in environmental funding to ensure clean water and air quality, as well as prevent pollution from pesticides and hazardous waste. In addition, Washington could lose another $924,000 in grants for fish and wildlife protection.

Instead of helping small businesses expand and hire, the automatic cuts would also reduce loan guarantees to small businesses by up to approximately $900 million.


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