Sequestration Cuts Affect Low-Income Children

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$85 billion in spending cuts are scheduled to go in effect March 1 when President Obama officially starts the sequestration. One key demographic hit by these cuts is low-income children.

Early education programs Head Start and Early Head Start expect to lose funding for approximately 400 children in Nebraska.

"All Head Start programs are anticipating cuts for the reminder of the fiscal year, depending on when their grant year is," said Lois Butler of Kearney Head Start.

The programs serve families from pregnancy to age five, with services in education, parenting, health, and other areas.

"Early Head Start serves pregnant women to age three, where we work on a curriculum that really works on early school readiness goals. So that when they do transition into the preschool program of Head Start, we have really set them up for where they should be when they go to kindergarten," Butler said.

Educators said they're hopeful for a reversal.

"Some of the information that we have access to really hopes that with President Obama's emphasis on education, maybe something might be restored," said Butler.

Because they know the cuts will hurt the children the most.

"Kids are going to be the losers in the long run. We definitely don't want to eliminate services but the choice evidently is out of our hands," said Butler.

The sequester will not only drain resources from children's mental enrichment, it will also impact their physical health. Nearly 800 Nebraska children, mostly those from low-income or uninsured families, will lose access to the Vaccines for Children program.

"The thing we've been hearing from the local health department here is availability of vaccines, and that has a lot of consequences when we look at a shortage of vaccines, mainly meaning, one, can we get it and two, cost of administration," said Ryan King of the Central District Health Department.

Many of the shots are ones kids need to attend school.

"You can't get the education, you can't get the vaccine. Without those two it causes a real problem in the community," King said.

While the direct impact would be on low-income children, health officials say the situation could affect everyone.

"Public health is an interesting animal is terms of protecting the public. You can't just protect segments of it, you have to protect the entire population," said King. "So if you don't have enough vaccines to cover a population, we're all at risk, so that's where it becomes important to public health."