2013 wasn’t a great year for North Carolina’s budgets. Between state lawmakers championing cutbacks and the federal government shutting down, funding for many programs fell between the cracks. Unfortunately, it’s looking like 2014 holds more of the same—or maybe even worse.
A set of across the board federal spending cuts, called Sequestration, are scheduled to increase in the spring of 2014. These spending decreases made the news in early 2013, when critics warned they’d lead to massive military furloughs and the cancellation of programs that support children, single parents, and victims of domestic violence.
Although effects of Sequestration so far turned out to be fewer than expected, new reports show that if the policy of capping spending continues, North Carolina families will pay the price. Last year military furloughs were limited to 6 days without pay. Without government intervention, in 2014 military spending be $52 million short of what the President says is needed to keep the armed forces operational. This will mean more furloughs, less recruiting, and fewer promotions.
Head Start, a federally funded program that targets at-risk preschoolers, lost funding for 1,300 children in North Carolina communities due to the 2013 sequester cuts. In 2014, 57,000 more children are scheduled to be cut from the program nationwide, a hit that will be compounded by a $291 million decrease in federal child care subsidies.
Other cuts include Violence Against Women Act funds, which keep the doors open at domestic violence shelters, research grants, housing assistance, and special education subsidies. According to one study, 1.3 million fewer students nationwide will receive Title I educational assistance, a fact that means preserving the education gap between those in need and more advantaged children.
The good news is that Sequestration isn’t yet a foregone conclusion. Members of the House and Senate budget committees are meeting in the coming weeks to hash out a national budget. The bad news is that the recent government shutdown proved that elected officials struggle with consensus when it comes to matters of spending.
Some warn that even if Sequestration is delayed or cancelled, spending on social programs could get the ax. Lawmakers are motivated to preserve military spending—which is great news for those in the armed services—but see domestic services, such as funding for the Women, Infants and Children Nutrition Program (WIC) as a possible place to cut.
Now is a great time to increase support for the programs that keep North Carolina families healthy and safe. Look into volunteering at a domestic violence shelter or donating books or supplies to your local head start. Reach out to your friends and let them know that these programs could face challenges, and try to organize drives of support or funds. Contact your representatives in Congress to let them know that you support both military families and domestic spending, and tell them you believe they can reach across the aisle and achieve accord on spending measures so that North Carolinian’s can rely on the services they need.