Eastern Iowa Agencies Assess Sequester Cut Impact

By Dave Franzman, Reporter

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By Dave Franzman

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Automatic spending cuts go into effect Friday if Congress can’t find a way around the sequester deadline. But how would an estimated $85-billion dollars in federal funding cuts in the March-September time period play out in Iowa?

The White House on Sunday sent out examples of the cuts to media in different states. Some Iowa examples included education. If the sequester does happen on Friday, Iowa schools statewide would lose about $6.4-million dollars in funding jeopardizing 90 jobs. Programs for disabled students would lose an estimated $5.8-million in funding. And Head Start and Early Head Start programs would lose the funding equivalent of 500 kids.

The Hawkeye Area Community Action Program (HACAP) operates Head Start programs in six different Eastern Iowa counties. That’s a total of 742 mostly preschool age students. The HACAP Head Start director said managers were told to expect a drop in federal funding anywhere from five to just over eight percent. That’s a dollar figure that would range from $283-thousand dollars to $464-thousand dollars.

Christi Regan, the director, said right now HACAP is doing some “what if” planning.

“For some of our programs, we’ll have to look at going to the minimums which would be part day/part year service. For families working or going to school, that’s not what they need to be successful and obtain the skills to be successful in life,” Regan said.

As another example, the White House estimated senior meal programs in Iowa would lose a total of $220,000 in funding due to the sequester. But the director of The Heritage Agency on Aging in Cedar Rapids said that doesn’t include other non-meal programs for seniors.

The agency operates programs in seven counties and estimates a loss of $153,000 in funding just in that area alone. The largest portion of the cutbacks would come in the familiar meal programs like Congregate Meals and Meals on Wheels.

Ingrid Wensel, director of Heritage Agency on Aging, ran down a shortlist of programs she would have to cut if the budget sequester does happen Friday.

“Adult day care services, respite services, transportation services — we believe more than 2,000 seniors will lose services unfortunately through the sequester,” Wensel said.

About half the meals the agency funds comes from Horizons Family Services in Cedar Rapids which operates Meals on Wheels. Fortunately, that organization received extra funding from United Way this year to protect again cutbacks from loss of federal dollars. That means the services will continue “as is” until the end of the fiscal year. However, beginning July 1st, Horizons will need to find funding to make up the sequester difference or cut back.

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