Poor, vulnerable among those hardest hit
- March 3, 2013 - 8:19 PM
WASHINGTON – The $85 billion in automatic cuts working their way through the federal budget spare many programs that aid the poorest and most vulnerable Americans, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program and food stamps.
But the sequestration cuts, as they are called, still contain billions of dollars in mandatory budget reductions in programs that help low-income Americans, including one that gives vouchers for housing to the poor and disabled and another that provides fortified baby formula to the children of poor women.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers largely resigned themselves to allowing sequestration — a policy meant to force them to the negotiating table, not to actually reduce the deficit — to take wider effect after it started Friday. That leaves agencies just seven months to carry out their cuts before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30. In many cases, they will eventually have to deny aid to needy families.
Unless a deal is reached to change the course of the cuts, housing programs would be hit particularly hard, with about 125,000 individuals and families put at risk of becoming homeless, the Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated. An additional 100,000 formerly homeless people might be removed from emergency shelters or other housing arrangements, the agency said.
In Washington and across the country, families and individuals generally need to have very low incomes to be eligible for federal assistance. Public housing residents in Washington have an average annual income of just $12,911. More than 40 percent are either children or the elderly, and more than a quarter live with a disability. In the voucher program, the annual income is even lower, just over $10,000 a year, and similarly large proportions of residents are elderly, disabled or young.
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