What rhymes with nation, frustration, and cessation and includes all three? My new least-favorite word: sequestration. Six months ago I could not pronounce this word that now looms everywhere.
“Sequestration” is the automatic reduction of spending triggered by the Budget Control Act passed by Congress in 2011 in response to the debt ceiling crisis. Under the Act, $1.2 trillion in federal spending cuts will be implemented across-the-board starting on January 1, 2013 and running through 2021. Simultaneous tax increases create what is called the “fiscal cliff,” further exacerbating the economic consequence. While certain programs (Social Security, Medicaid, federal retirement programs and Medicare) are protected from the full impact, unless Congress acts to limit spending sequestration will have a devastating effect on housing programs and Connecticut’s families.
According to a recent report from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, sequestration will trigger an immediate 8.2 percent cut to critical programs administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The effects on Connecticut will be harsh, including:
- 2,822 extremely low income families and individuals will lose rental assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher program, and will face eviction or homelessness;
- Public Housing funding will be cut by $6,735,072;
- Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) formula grants will be reduced by $2,695,498;
- Homeless Assistance grants will be reduced by $2,830,385.
These threatened cuts come on the heels of deep cuts to HUD’s budget since 2008, which have established a “new normal” and represent a marked erosion in the gains we’ve made. HUD funding, at its lowest level since 2001, does not come close to meeting the needs of our low-income families. In the last decade, local housing costs have risen six times as fast as income, and 62 percent of Connecticut renters cannot afford their monthly housing costs.
It has to be said: Sequestration should not move forward in its present form, and probably will not. However, any replacement plan that fails to include significant revenues would almost certainly require deep cuts in programs that serve low- and moderate-income families. I plan to talk with members of Congress over the next several weeks, and I urge everyone who cares about housing in our state to do the same. Sign on to letters, write an editorial in your local paper, pester your neighbors. Let everyone know that housing matters!
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