Stop sequestration, end suffering

Published 9:29 pm Monday, June 17, 2013

To the editor:

Certain governmental officials hold the American people hostage through sequestration, and their actions are devastating the lives of Americans.

The effect will be substantial in Virginia, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Pentagon officials have already warned of reductions in military spending that would be particularly crippling to the defense-heavy economies of Virginia, especially Hampton Roads.

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Now, the White House is highlighting other cuts related to federal funding for education, law enforcement, public health, national parks and environmental protection. 
”This is going to have further impacts on people’s lives in Virginia’s communities,” White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said in a conference call with reporters. “With a little bit of common sense, this could be resolved.”

When will Congress get on board? According to reports, about $28 million in education funding will be cut — $14 million for primary and secondary schools and about $13.9 million to pay for teachers and other staff who assist disabled children. In addition, 1,000 children would be dropped from Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

Also planned:

  • Cuts to work-study jobs on college campuses and reduced financial aid for more than 2,000 low-income students. Also $2 million in grants aimed at substance abuse treatment and prevention, as well as $337,000 for HIV tests and $241,000 for children’s vaccines for measles and other diseases;
  • Almost $3 million for protection of environmental resources and $826,000 in grants for fish and wildlife protection;
  • Cuts of $1.2 million for Meals on Wheels and other nutrition programs for the elderly
Virginia residents working in federal agencies have been warned of even more delays or disruptions in many non-defense operations, because some government employees will be required to take unpaid days off.

The domestic program cuts are in addition to deep defense reductions that hit hardest in Virginia and a handful of other states where large military installations are located.

In Hampton Roads, the Pentagon has said most of the region’s 39,000-plus civilian Defense Department workers would be required to take off one or more unpaid days. Statewide, about 90,000 defense workers would be furloughed, cutting the Pentagon payroll in Virginia by more than $645 million, according to the White House.

The reductions are in addition to expected layoffs in the region’s expansive ship repair industry if the Navy follows through with plans to cancel ship repair and construction contracts.

Virginians’ lives will be placed on hold. Congress should stop the madness and begin to consider the lives of those who are suffering. We will not stand for it.

James McCollum

Suffolk