The sequester, a new “crisis” resulting purely from congressional inaction, is officially in effect. And with every passing day, it appears that lawmakers – who once said allowing $85 billion in automatic budget cuts to go into effect would be economically devastating – are content to let the cuts remain in place.
According to some lawmakers, the budget cuts currently in place will have the largest impact on the most disadvantaged sectors of American society. Low-income women (particularly, women of color) with children will likely be the hardest-hit.
Women’s Health Is Disposable
A total of $86 million has been slashed from key women’s health programs that primarily serve lower-income women, who often lack access to quality health care coverage.
The automatic budget cuts remove $4 million from the Safe Motherhood Initiative, which helps prevent pregnancy-related deaths (a bigger problem than one would think in the U.S., where between two and three women die from pregnancy-related complications every day); $8 million from the Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program, which provides cancer screenings to poor women; $24 million from the Title X family planning and reproductive services; and $50 million from the Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant.
The Title V block grant provides prenatal care for low-income, at-risk pregnant women, provides access to preventive child care services, and provides funding to reduce infant mortality.
Sequestration also cuts $20 million from the recently reinstated Violence Against Women Act, and another $9 million from the Family Violence Prevention Act. The latter is the primary source of funding for shelters that provide a safe haven to women and children who have fled a violent home.
More than 70,000 Kids Lose Access To Head Start, Child Care Services
An increasing number of children are growing up in single, female-headed households, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Approximately 31 percent of those households were poor in 2010, compared to 15.8 percent of households headed by single men and 6.2 percent of those led by married couples.
One of the main obstacles for single moms in this position is finding child care services that free them up to find work. But sequestration cuts $424 million from Head Start and Early Head Start programs, which provide health and education services to low-income families.
Cuts are also hitting the Department of Health and Human Services’ Child Care Development Fund, ending child care subsidies for another 30,000 children.
More Than Half A Million Will Lose Food Stamps
About $600 million is set to be cut from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program For Women, Infants and Children, which provides nutritious food subsidies to poor pregnant women, as well as poor women with infants and children under the age of 5.
Anywhere from 575,000 to 750,000 low-income women and children who qualify for the program, which serves about 9 million people, will now be turned away.
“That would mark a dramatic break in a longstanding and laudable bipartisan practice, dating back to 1997, under which administrations and Congresses of both parties have provided sufficient funding to ensure that WIC can serve all eligible low-income pregnant women, infants and young children who apply,” reports the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Cuts to Public Sector Jobs Disproportionately Affect Women
The sequester is expected to cost about 750,000 federal jobs in 2013, primarily affecting public sector workers, such as teachers. According to the Department of Labor, more than 50 percent of those positions are held by women.
On a side note, Congressional lawmakers and the president are obviously exempt from those federal job losses. And despite the House of Representatives’ so-called “No Budget, No Pay” Act – intended to freeze pay for U.S. senators until they pass a budget – there is no sign that it is actually going to take effect. So, despite the cuts they are imposing on the American public because of their inability to compromise on deficit reduction, congressional lawmakers will continue to receive their $174,000 salary.