— Local leaders of human services agencies came together Monday to discuss effects the community will see as a result of the sequester.
The sequester kicked in Friday night and requires federal agencies to make $85 billion in spending cuts through the Sept. 30, which is the end of the federal fiscal year.
“They’re trying to balance this budget on the poor and the vulnerable,” said Sister Marilyn Perkins, vice president of Mission Integration at Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton.
On Monday afternoon, in the Broome County Council of Churches, members from agencies including Head Start, Catholic Charities, Southern Tier AIDS Program and Opportunities for Broome, echoed Perkins’ sentiments and called on local residents to appeal the cuts to elected officials in Washington.
The groups were brought together by Citizen Action of New York.
“The money is there,” said Amy Fleming, a volunteer with Citizen Action, speaking about how Congress and the president need to work harder. “They just need the will and the heart and the integrity to move it.”
While most representatives were unsure of the immediate effects the sequester will have on their agencies, they all agreed the cuts will get worse over the course of the month and will be devastating to the local community if no action is taken.
“This will be compounded,” said Kathy Pfaffenbach, who works in the food pantry for Catholic Charities of Broome County.
Programs like Meals on Wheels, which delivers meals to the elderly and WIC, which provides nutritious food for woman, infants and children, will be greatly affected through cuts in funding, she said.
This could lead to a greater dependence on the community to help fill the shelves and may mean less nutritious food for recipients.
Kate Grippen, the Head Start director of the Family Enrichment Network, said the program already has a waiting list of 102 and 106, respectively, for Head Start and Early Head Start programs.
She said the list will continue to grow and there may be staff cuts for employees in the future.
“Simply put, the sequester is extremely painful,” she said.