(MintPress) – The failure on behalf of Congress to reach a budget deal by March 1 has set in motion $85 billion worth of across-the-board cuts to government services, leaving children and seniors on the losing end. The cuts come at a time of widespread nutritional needs among children in the United States, with USDA […]
(MintPress) – The failure on behalf of Congress to reach a budget deal by March 1 has set in motion $85 billion worth of across-the-board cuts to government services, leaving children and seniors on the losing end.
The cuts come at a time of widespread nutritional needs among children in the United States, with USDA figures indicating 16.2 million American children struggle with hunger. Nationwide, 20 million kids qualify for free and reduced lunch, with Congress unable to close a budget deal as of Friday afternoon, are all these programs helping low-income families will end.
More than 600,000 women and children, including infants who are assisted through WIC nutrition service, a USDA department, are expected to be dropped from the program, according to the Center on Budgets and Policy Priorities.
Of those impacted by the $543 million in cuts, 450,000 are people of color, according to the Urban Institute, providing a disproportionate blow to communities of color throughout the country.
Cuts to children-centered food services come on top of cuts to the Meals on Wheels programs, which will now serve 4 million fewer meals to homebound senior citizens, according to the White House fact sheet, which indicates recipients of the program are those suffering from chronic illness, including diabetes and heart disease — ailments which are directly related to nutrition.
The purpose of WIC is to provide nutritious food and health care referrals to low-income women who are pregnant, infants and children younger than 5 years old who are at nutritional risk. It’s championed as a core service, a safety net intended to prevent young children from falling to illness associated with malnutrition. It’s estimated that the lives of more than 500,000 babies have been saved, thanks to the program.
Women now eligible for the program will be cut off, representing a major shift in Congressional priorities since 1997. That no longer is the case, and the implications extend beyond one bad year for the most vulnerable of Americans. Even if funding is increased next yet to acceptable levels, the impact of this year’s harsh measures will be difficult to mend.
“Even, in the aftermath of the 2013 sequester, policy makers provide adequate WIC funding for 2014, the negative impact of the 2013 sequester would do untold damage to the people who rely the services,” the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities study states. “That’s because local WIC programs would not be able to hire staff and spread the word rapidly enough to begin serving all eligible applicants again at the start of the fiscal year 2014.”
The sequester is expected to result in the layoffs of more than 1,600 state and local positions associated with the program.
The domino effect of reversal of services is one that will also cost the government in the long run. In a letter drafted to the House Appropriations Committee in 2011 by more than 30 service, health and religious organizations argued against proposed cuts, pointing out that preterm birth cost the United States more than $26 billion a year — WIC prenatal services have reduced the rate of “very low” birth-weight babies by more than 44 percent.