Sequestration impact: Eastern Idaho's young and elderly

Sequestration impact: Eastern Idaho's young and elderly

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho - Our nation is just days away from across-the-board budget cuts, so we're taking a closer look this week at how those cuts would impact local people if Congress doesn't act.

The Eastern Idaho Community Action Program offers assistance to people of all ages, but since EICAP's management might have to take a second look at the budget, they worry that some low-income families will have to look elsewhere for help.

Dozens of seniors come to the Senior Citizens Community Center Idaho Falls for the card games, but they stay for the meal.

Come Friday, $85 billion will be slashed from federal programs across the board if Congress doesn't act.

Some of the cash coming from EICAP will have to come from nutrition programs for seniors.

"We would not be able to reimburse a portion of the meals for one month, either congregate or home-delivered," EICAP Executive Director Russ Spain explained.

Spain said that amounts to $18,000 in cuts across 14 area senior centers over one month.  After that, the reimbursements would go back to normal.

"They may not ever know it," Spain said of the meal recipients.

Eastern Idaho's youngest citizens have been dealt a less fortunate hand.

"(There would be) 20 to 24 kids in our area that would no longer be able to go to Head Start," Spain said.

Spain is not sure of an exact dollar amount, but he estimates hundreds of thousands of dollars would be cut from eastern Idaho's Head Start preschool program.  

Over one classroom full of kids, all from low-income families, could be let go.

"Which 20 or 24 do you tell they can no longer come to school?" Spain asked.

Several staff members could also be laid off.

Spain says sequestration is harsher on young children than on the elderly because there is more money to cut from the Head Start program.

"It looks from the surface, from our viewpoint, that the budget is being balanced ... on the backs of 3- and 4-year olds," Spain said.

Cuts to Head Start could create a ripple effect, Spain explained.

If a child is let go from the program and has to stay home, that could keep a parent out of a job.

Neither political party wants sequestration to kick in, but no negotiations are planned to avoid it.

Democrats say Republicans are to blame for the budget cuts.  Republicans say Democrats are using those cuts as a scare tactic.

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