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Sequestration cuts would hit the Bay Area's most vulnerable

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Top city officials recently took the One Billion Rising pledge to protect women, but domestic violence shelters may face cuts. - TIM DAW/BAY GUARDIAN
  • Tim Daw/Bay Guardian
  • Top city officials recently took the One Billion Rising pledge to protect women, but domestic violence shelters may face cuts.

While the looming federal budget cuts known as sequestration were designed to equally hit Democratic and Republican party priorities, from social services to the military budget, in the Bay Area they would disproportionately target society's most vulnerable citizens and strain already-stretched local agency budgets.

If Congress and the White House fail to forge a budget deal by March 1, the cuts could begin to withdraw $9-10 billion of federal support from the California. As the Bay Guardian reports, these cuts would have the biggest impact on the Bay Area's low-income families, the homeless, victims of domestic violence, adults living with AIDS, and children.

In September, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee signed a U.S. Conference of Mayors' letter that called on federal lawmakers to resolve the budget conflict before the sequestration cuts could take effect, labeling the budget cuts "a threat" to local economies nationwide. Now, with the deadline looming, city officials and social service providers across the Bay Area are bracing for the impact. Depending to how the cuts are eventually allocated, San Francisco alone could lose more than $10 million in critical social services.

"All across the city, the sequestration hurts those most in need of services and support," Gentle Blythe, spokesperson with the San Francisco Unified School District, told the Guardian.

San Francisco Unified stands to lose $3.8 million in funding, over 5 percent of the district's federal education dollars. The cuts would strain an already strapped education budget, which has suffered from the slow economy and the corresponding dip in tax revenue. "We've been in a climate of cuts for years," Blythe said. "There is a definite sense of fatigue."

The pending round of cuts would force San Francisco district officials to make a series of uncomfortable decisions. The bulk of San Francisco's federal education funding comes from Title I and Title III grants, money specifically earmarked for low-income students and English-language learners. If the state does not step in to fill the hole, the $3.8 million shortfall will translate into a significant rollback of services for the city's most at-risk students and potential layoffs of teachers and resource officers.