Updated March 28 at 9:28am

White House: Sequestration projected to cost R.I. $39M


WASHINGTON – Rhode Island programs and payrolls are expected to lose more than $39 million to the automatic sequestration cuts threatening to take place on March 1, according to a report released by the White House on Sunday detailing how the deep spending cuts will affect every state in the country.

According to the White House report, Rhode Island stands to lose $39.34 million this year alone. Of that total projected loss, $31.5 million is from the 5,000 civilian U.S. Department of Defense employees who would see their gross pay furloughed by the cuts. The state’s Army base operation funding also would be cut by $800,000 under sequestration.

Rhode Island’s teachers and schools are expected to take the next largest hit, losing roughly $2.4 million in funding for primary and secondary education. According to the report, this would put 30 teacher and aide jobs at risk. “In addition, about 3,000 fewer students would be served and approximately 10 fewer schools would receive funding,” said the report.

The state also stands to lose an additional $2.1 million in funds for roughly 20 teachers, aids and staff dedicated to helping children with disabilities.

The report went on to say that about 340 fewer low-income students in the state will receive aid to help them finance the costs of college and roughly 280 students will lose out on work-study jobs. Additionally, the report claimed that Head Start and Early Head Start services would be eliminated for around 200 Rhode Island children.

Sequestration cuts also will tighten the purse strings on Rhode Island’s environmental funding. Under the cuts, the state would lose roughly $1.25 million in environmental funding that helps ensure clean water and air quality. The report said it was also possible for the state to lose an additional $359,000 in grants for fish and wildlife protection.

The state’s public health initiatives stand to lose nearly $500,000 from the cuts. The state will lose about $330,000 in grants to help prevent and treat substance abuse, a figure which translates to 400 fewer admissions to the state’s programs, according to the report. Rhode Island also stands to lose roughly $101,000 in funds that “help upgrade its ability to respond to public health threats,” including infectious diseases, natural disasters and biological, chemical, nuclear and radiological events.

Furthermore, the R.I. Department of Health will lose $61,000, resulting in 1,500 fewer HIV tests. The report went on to say that funding cuts of $36,000 for vaccinations will results in about 530 fewer children receiving vaccinations for diseases including measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza and Hepatitis B.

Rhode Island seniors who depend on state meal assistance programs could see less food, according to the report, with the state losing approximately $188,000 in funding for nutrition assistance to seniors.

The state’s STOP Violence Against Women Program, which provides services to victims of domestic violence, could lose up to $22,000 in funding. The White House report said these cuts would result in 100 fewer domestic violence victims served.

According to the White House, $126,000 in sequestration cuts would mean roughly 4,550 fewer people in the Ocean State would be able to rely on job search assistance, referral and placement programs. The report also said that “up to 100 disadvantaged and vulnerable children” could lose child-care access, a program the report claims is “essential for working parents to hold down a job.”

Finally, the state’s law enforcement and public safety workers could see a $68,000 cut in Justice Assistance Grants, which support law enforcement, prosecution and courts, crime prevention and education, corrections and community corrections, drug treatment and enforcement and crime victim and witness initiatives.

Nationwide the across-the-board cuts call for an annual reduction of roughly 5 percent for non-defense programs and 8 percent for defense programs. “However, given that these cuts must be achieved over only seven months instead of 12, the effective percentage reductions will be approximately 9 percent for non-defense programs and 13 percent for defense programs,” said the report. “These large and arbitrary cuts will have severe impacts across the government.”

White House officials said they don’t expect to head off $85 billion in automatic spending cuts scheduled to start March 1 as they released a list of the state- by-state impact on programs including defense, education and public health.

“Our hope is that we’ll be able to come to a solution,” Dan Pfeiffer, a senior Obama adviser, said in a conference call with reporters Sunday. “But there seems to be nothing the Republicans are saying right now on Sunday to suggest that by Friday they’re going to change their position.”

House Speaker John Boehner’s spokesman, Michael Steel, put the blame on President Barack Obama’s administration. “The White House needs to spend less time explaining to the press how bad the sequester will be and more time actually working to stop it,” the Republican said.

For all the concern in Washington, investors are signaling that the $15.8 trillion U.S. economy is strong enough to weather the reductions in federal spending. Home sales, consumer confidence and employment are rebounding. Economists at FTN Financial said in a report last week that, while being characterized as a recession risk, sequestration cuts are less than a third of the size of the tax increases on January 1.

To view the full White House release, CLICK HERE.

Bloomberg News contributed to this report.


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