Local residents should take sequester seriously

With the bad news out of Washington since well before the first of the year consisting of a seemingly endless string of fiscal cliffs, crises, deadlocks and deadlines, it’s no wonder many people have tuned out the most recent looming problem – the sequester.

But Michigan faces a loss of about a $140 million in federal funds if this series of across-the-board automatic budget cuts kicks in Friday. And Superiorland residents should be concerned over the local programs that will take a hit.

The White House said Michigan stands to lose $1.8 million that would be used for meals for the elderly and noted that Head Start and Early Head Start services would be eliminated for 2,300 children. The cuts include $67.7 million in pay to 10,000 civilian Defense Department employees in Michigan and $42.2 million to K-12 and disability education programs in the state.

Among the specific local programs and services we know will be affected are senior Meals on Wheels programs, Head Start and Early Head Start classrooms and Sawyer International Airport’s control facilities.

The Alger-Marquette Community Action Board, which operates the senior meals and Head Start programs, has been given no guidance on what to expect if the sequester ax falls. Officials said they aren’t even certain what the reduction amount will be – though it could be a 5 percent across-the-board cut.

AMCAB serves 70,000 home-delivered meals annually. Currently the organization has 284 children in Head Start and works with 40 children and families in the Early Head Start program.

Sawyer’s air traffic control tower is on a list of facilities which would be closed by the Federal Aviation Administration in the event of sequestration. County officials, too, are uncertain what the full impact on the airport would be.

And beyond that, county residents should brace for cuts to local health departments and public safety. Transportation; programs for the old, the young, the disabled; health; public safety – are these really the first programs we want to cut?

We hope we don’t have to find out just how much the sequester could hurt our area.

The sequester is scheduled to take effect Friday and some lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, are hopeful the deadline pressure will prompt Congress to raise money by closing some tax loopholes to prevent these draconian and poorly planned cuts from happening.

We urge our readers to contact their legislators and let them know: Congress needs to find ways to bring spending and revenue into balance, but the sequester clearly isn’t the right approach.