Public health services have faced adversity this fall, from the government shutdown to the initial struggles of Healthcare.gov. However sequestration — automatic federal budget cuts enacted by U.S. law March 1 — has become public health’s constant predator, slashing its funding for everything from scientific research to special education programs.
But how have these cuts affected the health and safety of Americans?
In a report released today by NDD United and sponsored by APHA, the stories of real people explain how sequestration has made the nation’s people sicker, poorer and less secure.
“Faces of Austerity” first explains the everyday importance of non-defense discretionary federal programs, or NDD, in commonsense terms. They maintain food and water security, safe medications, weather forecasts, access to education, public transportation, technology, air traffic control, parks, recreation, and countless other vital services. However if sequestration continues, funding for these services will be depleted to its lowest levels since 1962.
NDD United, a partnership of 3,200 local, state and national organizations, then tells the stories of these cuts through more than 40 individual accounts, including:
- Sharilyn Cano, human resources director of the Southern Oregon Head Start program: “We went from serving 1,378 kids in May to 1,141 kids in September. The loss of 237 kids is all because of sequester.”
- Cheri Taylor, executive director of Pottersville (Calif.) Adult Day Services, which serves low-income clients with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia: “These programs allow people with Alzheimer’s disease to remain in their homes longer and provide needed respite to their family caregivers. Any ‘savings’ from sequestration would pale in comparison to the added costs resulting from unnecessary hospitalizations, premature nursing home placements, and greater financial and emotional strains on family caregivers.”
- Phil Francis, former superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which gets nearly 15 million park visitors each year: “These places are so important to our country and who we are as a people, so if we’re not willing to take care of our country’s most important historical and natural places, then what does that mean for us as a society, especially when you consider how small the park service budget is, about one-fourteenth of one percent of the federal budget?”
“We hope Congress and the White House will remember the faces from this report— and the faces of millions of Americans not featured here—as they work together to balance the federal budget in a more balanced and responsible way,” the report states.