WASHINGTON – More than $17 million in spending cuts could go into effect in Rhode Island Friday if Congress fails to agree on a plan to reduce the deficit and avoid the cuts, according to the White House.
Additionally, a total of $3 billion of federal funding for victims of Superstorm Sandy could be cut unless Congress acts to avoid automatic the scheduled spending cuts.
Congress recently approved $60 billion in Sandy aid for victims, states and municipalities, all of which is subject to impending sequestration cuts.
In all, spending cuts to domestic government programs and the Department of Defense could amount to $85 billion this year if lawmakers fail to take action this week.
“I’m greatly concerned about the impact of these arbitrary across the board cuts, which treat our highest priorities the same as our lowest priorities. That’s just not a responsible way to do a budget, as demonstrated by the potential loss of relief for communities hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy,” Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) said in a statement Friday.
The White House also released a plan detailing the impacts of the proposed cuts on each state. Aside from Hurricane Sandy relief, Rhode Island will also be affected in the areas of education, environment, defense, public health and senior services, among others.
If the sequestration cuts take place, Rhode Island will lose approximately $2.4 million in funding for primary and secondary education, according to White House documents. This would put around 30 teacher and aide jobs at risk, 3,000 fewer students would be served and 10 fewer schools would receive funding.
Additionally, Rhode Island will lose approximately $2.1 million in funding for 20 teachers, aides and staff who help children with disabilities.
Head Start and Early Head Start services would also be eliminated for approximately 200 children in Rhode Island, reducing access to critical early education.
In the realm of higher education, about 340 fewer low income students in Rhode Island would receive aid to help them finance the costs of college and around 280 fewer students would get work-study jobs that help them pay for college.
“The best solution to all of our economic challenges, including the debt, is to create jobs that strengthen the middle class,” Langevin said. “Unfortunately, in addition to holding back Sandy recovery efforts, sequestration’s cuts to early education could cost more than 60 jobs in our state with hundreds fewer children served, and reducing workforce investment funding would mean more than 1,000 fewer Rhode Islanders getting the job training that can help them best contribute to our economy.”
Rhode Island would lose about $1.3 million in environmental funding to ensure clean water and air quality, as well as prevent pollution. Rhode Island could lose another $359,000 in grants for fish and wildlife protection.
Rhode Island would be hit hard in the area of defense. Approximately 5,000 civilian Department of Defense employees in the state would be furloughed, reducing gross pay by around $31.5 million in total.
Continuing to improve Rhode Island’s employment rate would also likely be stalled as Rhode Island would lose about $126,000 in funding for job search assistance, referral and placement, meaning about 4,550 fewer people will get the help and skills they need to find employment.
In the realm of public health, Rhode Island would lose approximately $101,000 in funds to help upgrade its ability to respond to public health threats, such as infectious disease, natural disasters and biological, chemical, nuclear and radiological events.
Rhode Island would also lose about $330,000 in grants to help prevent and treat substance abuse. Another $36,000 would also likely be cut to fund vaccines for children, meaning around 530 fewer children would receive necessary vaccines for diseases such as measles, mumps, influenza, whooping cough, etc.
If the cuts take place, Rhode Island would also lose approximately $188,000 in funds that provide meals for seniors.
“Even with time running short, there is no reason for this to happen,” Langevin said. “We can pass a balanced plan, as my Democratic colleagues and I have proposed, that combines new revenues from closing tax loopholes with smart, targeted spending cuts that protect our highest priorities, like education and Sandy relief. However, we can’t get there if the Republican party continues to follow an ideology that says these key investments are worth giving up to protect tax breaks for the wealthiest few and big oil companies.”