I am not a politician and generally pay attention to politics just enough to know what I need to in order to be informed about the world around me, but this sequester has me concerned for a few reasons.
The number one reason is that whenever there are cuts, it seems like the people and places that need the most funding, are the first to lose funding and to feel it the most: the poor, the young, the disabled and the elderly.
About two years ago the state I live in had some major budget cuts that hit the mental health and substance abuse field hard.
In the company I work for, whole programs were shut down including precious juvenile justice and treatment programs. In the program I work in, we lost a handful of good counselors causing several schools to either be without a dedicated mental health/substance abuse counselor or for one counselor to have to split days between two schools when in actuality, most high schools could benefit from two full time mental health/substance abuse counselors on campus.
Nobody was happy about this. Not the counselors, the students or the schools, but due to budget cuts, we all had to find away to survive, as messy as it was. And now here we go again.
I am a mental health counselor, so of course I am always concerned about not only how budget cuts will effect me, but how they will effect society at large.
We were just having a big discussion about gun control and mental health reform a few weeks ago, yet according the the White House, an estimated 373,000 “seriously mentally ill” people may be without care. Where does that lead these people, many who need counseling, housing and medication to keep them from harming themselves or others.
Other programs that are subject to cuts that personally bother me include cuts to aid for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), because I know many of my clients and students are on these programs and I know many of them need these programs to be able to keep the lights on in their apartments and food on the table. Most people don’t want to be on these programs, contrary to popular belief, but are on these programs because they need assistance.
On top of that, public housing may be cut by$1.94 billion. Working in an inner-city high school, I know that many of my students benefit from public housing, what does that mean for them and their families? Does that mean they may have to move back in to an overcrowded house with the child molesting uncle, or does it mean they will be homeless.
Speaking of homeless, other programs such as rental assistance and homeless programs are on the chopping blocks. Many of these people have fallen on hard times and are unemployed, did I mention unemployment checks will probably get smaller also?
A program called Head Start that many lower income and inner-city kids need to be able to make up for lack of early exposure to proper education, something that can change the course of a child’s life forever, may get cut by $406 million, which could mean 70,000 kids won’t have access to the program. That’s 70,000 kids that will be robbed of priceless early education experiences.
Special education may be cut by $840 million. I spent some time working in special education, especially with kids with autism and know the hard work and extra funding those kids need, not less.
There are a host of other programs that will be facing budget cuts, but these are the programs that are most near and dear to my heart because of the type of work I do and the population I deal with.
I wish that the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (the“Supercommittee”) and Congress would sincerely realize that behind the numbers, figures and politics, are real people with real needs, just trying to survive.