Poor or disabled children could be among first hurt by budget cuts

02/24/2013 12:00 AM

02/23/2013 8:07 PM

State leaders – from the Mental Health Department to the state’s leading economist – say they do not have solid figures on how across-the-board federal budget cuts, known as sequestration, would impact services in South Carolina.

Even how deep those spending cuts would be into the federal government’s discretionary spending, excluding defense, is unclear.

Estimates range from more than 8 percent to 5.2 percent. The lower estimate – by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research firm – is based on the recent debt-ceiling deal, which reduced the sequesters 2013 cuts to $85 billion from $109 billion.

Here’s a snapshot of what might happen to some state programs that get federal aid. (Possible impacts are based on the assumption that all states would be treated equally and the Center for Budget’s 5.2 percent estimate.)

S.C. Department of Education

Teaching positions, as well as services that students receive, would be at stake during the 2013-2014 school year. While cuts would impact all federal money flowing into the state for education – $881 million in 2012-13 – federal Title 1 grants that serve low-income students and money for students with disabilities are two programs that likely would be hit hardest.

Possible cuts, totaling $46 million, could include:

• $10.6 million for Title 1 programs that serve 256,673 students in 550 schools. Those programs received $203 million in federal aid in 2010-2011, the most recent year for which audited numbers were available.
• $7.6 million for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which pays for services for students with disabilities. The program, which serves 99,530 students, received $146 million in federal aid in 2010-2011.

S.C. Head Start

Head Start, which serves 13,121 low-income pre-kindergarteners, could lose $4.8 million. The federal program received $92.7 million in 2011, spending just more than $7,000 a child. The loss of $4.8 million would be the equivalent of losing funding for 682 children.

Women, Infants and Children nutrition program

The federal nutrition program for women who are pregnant, breast feeding or suffering from post-partum depression, and their infants and children could lose $3.8 million. The program received $73 million in 2012, and serves 126,784 South Carolinians.

Mental Health

The S.C. Department of Mental Health expects cuts to money that it gets from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The agency could lose $330,000 in block grants for programs for children and adults. The agency most recently received $6.4 million in block grants.

Federal housing assistance

The Center for Budget estimated the state could lose more than $80 million in federal housing assistance programs, based on 2012 allocations.

Possible cuts could include:

• 1,259 of the almost 24,000 S.C. families who now get rental assistance from the Housing Choice Vouchers program could lose that assistance.
• $3.6 million of the $69 million in public housing assistance that the state now gets, and $627,340 of its $12.4 million in federal assistance for the homeless.

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