Sequestration cuts would hit the Bay Area's most vulnerable

Top city officials recently took the One Billion Rising pledge to protect women, but domestic violence shelters may face cuts.
Tim Daw

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. In the Bay Area, these cuts would have the biggest impact on low-income families, the homeless, victims of domestic violence, adults living with AIDS, and children ages 3-5.

Back 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-tight 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.

Early childhood programs are especially vulnerable to the impact of the sequester. San Francisco Head Start Director Marjorie Weiss told us the demand for these federal education programs is spiking as more San Francisco children are living in poverty.

US Census figures show 13.8 percent of San Francisco residents were living below the federal poverty line in 2011, up from 12.2 percent in 2005. Over the last decade, 850 additional children became eligible for SF Head Start, which operates federally funded preschool programs in 19 classrooms at 9 different centers across the city.

These programs significantly improve the long-term employment and educational prospects of children living in or near poverty. But as the need for these early-childhood services grows, the money is drying up. Over the last two years, state and local funding for early-childhood education has be cut by nearly 20 percent.

Now, with the sequestration looming, San Francisco Head Start providers are worried about their ability to continue providing services. "At Head Start, we have already been dealing with years of budget cuts," Weiss told us. If the sequester comes through, the program will lose an additional $1.1 million and will be forced to eliminate programming for more than 100 low income children ages 3-5.

"This will be devastating. These cuts will have a crippling effect on low-income children in the community and their ability to be ready for school" says Weiss. The funding cuts will take effect June 1st and directly impact the incoming class of 3-year-old preschool students.

Although education will absorb a significant impact from the sequestration, social services across the city will be cut back. San Francisco homeless advocates are forecasting a $1 million cut in federal assistance and AIDS groups have warned that nearly $800,000 dollars in housing vouchers for AIDS patients are on the chopping block. Federal funding for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), which subsidized medical care for AIDS patients, is set to be slashed by nearly 8 percent across the board.

Advocates for the victims of domestic abuse are also worried about the sequester's impact on local survivors of domestic violence. In San Francisco, federal money provides crucial services for victims of domestic violence through nationally-mandated Family Violence and Prevention Services (FVPS). The city's three primary domestic violence shelters rely on this revenue stream for outreach programming, translation services, and extended operating hours. The pending sequester would cut nearly 10 percent of FVPS grants, forcing shelters to tighten their belts.

"The sequester is going to dramatically impact the funding for lifesaving services for domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers, as well as legal service, and children's programs," Beckie Masaki, the founder and former executive director of San Francisco's Asian Women's Shelter, told the Guardian. Masaki now works with the Asian and Pacific Island Institute (APIDV) on Domestic Violence, where she advocates for more federal funding for domestic violence service providers.

Masaki is worried that the cuts will disproportionately impact the city's most vulnerable women: low-income and non-English speaking victims of domestic violence, as cash-strapped shelters lay off translators and cut back on outreach and group therapy.

"In the past, when we were facing cuts, we did our best to minimize the impact on survivors," she explains. "But in this era of constant cuts, it's going to mean layoffs, and ultimately fewer services for the most vulnerable survivors".

As lawmakers in Washington scramble to pass a budget deal before the March 1 deadline, the climate of uncertainty leaves local service agencies in a state of limbo. With future funding in doubt, long-term planning and strategizing become increasingly difficult. Yet for many local service providers, the most recent threat of sequestration is a familiar consequence of an increasingly fragile social safety net.

According to Masaki, the sequestration should motivate Congress to rethink its budgeting priorities: "If they invest in these baseline life-saving services for those that are most vulnerable in our community, in the end that is the path to better economic and social sustainability for our whole nation."


That's a myth. It will cut government spending by just 0.4% this year. And of course that will only mean that there will be a corresponding 0.4% increase in private sector spending (assuming that you agree that the total amount of money in the nation is the same either way).

If you do not like sequestration, blame the Dem's in Congress. The GOP did their part, agreeing tax hikes a few months ago, even though they ahd signed the tax pledge.

Now it is the Dem's turn to match that gesture with cuts, and so far they have not.
So let's have the sequestration to impose the cuts. It's not perfect but congress are not acting.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 26, 2013 @ 3:30 pm

"U.S. politicians have cried wolf over austerity long enough for the public to ignore them. A perfect time, then, for politicians to actually unleash the wolves. Barring an unlikely last minute deal, here’s a short list of some of the massive, national bi-partisan-created austerity cuts, according to the New York Times:

-600,000 food stamp recipients will be cut from the program

-Massive education cuts. According to President Obama: ”Once these cuts take effect thousands of teachers and educators will be laid off and tens of thousands of parents will have to scramble to find child care for their kids.”

-12 billion in Medicare cuts (more to come after 2013)

-Millions receiving unemployment will see their checks cut by 11% (an average of 132 a month)

-Federal funds to state governments will be cut, creating even more deficits for states and municipalities, and thus more localized cuts (the states have already made austerity cuts of $337 billion!)

"Also, 700,000 jobs are expected to be loss, while 70,000 kids are also expected to be kicked off of Head Start.

"And this is just for 2013. The current plan for the austerity “sequester” cuts is $100 billion of federal cuts every year for ten years, equaling massive cuts to jobs, Medicare, education, and completely destroying federally funded social programs."

Posted by And the rich made out like bandits on Feb. 26, 2013 @ 3:40 pm

programs. They take so much of the budget (several times more than defence, which itself is taking 505 of these cuts) that it leaves the other 50% of the cuts falling on the discretionary programs, such as described in this article.

You are wrong that there will be much effect on GDP - anout 0.4% is the estimate - less than the payroll tax hike in January. In fact, sequerstration may be pro-growth - a point Kudlow made earlier this week.

But the real point here is that even a small cut in the entitlement programs would make nonoe of these cuts necessary. It's a non-problem.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 26, 2013 @ 3:46 pm

For one thing, Social Security has its own trust fund, and has nothing to do with the budget. And I don't have time to address the rest of your bogus. I'll have to save it for tomorrow. Patent B.S.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 26, 2013 @ 4:14 pm

paid from general taxation and, any year now, it will go into permanent deficit.

but you are partly right - it is MediCaid that is the real problem, because there isn't even the delusion of a funding source for that.

The entitlement programs have to be cut, because they are consuming an ever higher proportion of the budget, and is unsustainable as envisaged right now.

We cannot balance the budget without cutting entitlement programs.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 26, 2013 @ 4:29 pm

A failure at rhetoric, a failure at sadism (witness the feeble attempts to sow misery and distress), we can only hope that this cretin has been successful in stealing a bunch of wealth from truly productive people, because this ill-gotten wealth can be taxed -- through a tax on stupidity! -- representing just the sort of budget balancing maneuver that just about everybody could get behind, but the silly intellectual cipher could never imagine.

"MediCaid" -- How can one even be such a mental weakling?

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 26, 2013 @ 9:21 pm

Clue: It's not paid for out of social security. I thought everybody knew that.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 3:00 am

Krugman on Social Security:

"Social Security has been running surpluses for the last quarter-century, banking those surpluses in a special account, the so-called trust fund. The program won’t have to turn to Congress for help or cut benefits until or unless the trust fund is exhausted, which the program’s actuaries don’t expect to happen until 2037 — and there’s a significant chance, according to their estimates, that that day will never come."

Krugman on Medicare:

"Medicare actually saves money — a lot of money — compared with relying on private insurance companies. And this in turn means that pushing people out of Medicare, in addition to depriving many Americans of needed care, would almost surely end up increasing total health care costs.

"The idea of Medicare as a money-saving program may seem hard to grasp. After all, hasn’t Medicare spending risen dramatically over time? Yes, it has: adjusting for overall inflation, Medicare spending per beneficiary rose more than 400 percent from 1969 to 2009.

But inflation-adjusted premiums on private health insurance rose more than 700 percent over the same period. So while it’s true that Medicare has done an inadequate job of controlling costs, the private sector has done much worse. And if we deny Medicare to 65- and 66-year-olds, we’ll be forcing them to get private insurance — if they can — that will cost much more than it would have cost to provide the same coverage through Medicare."

Posted by And the rich made out like bandits on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 1:02 pm

"banking those surpluses in a special account, the so-called trust fund"

LOL. Krugman is simply lying here. The revenues from social security are simply turned over to Treasury to immediately spend, and in exchange Treasury sends the Social Security Administration an paper IOU (referred to as a "bond", to dupe the ill-informed). That's all the "trust fund" is - pieces of paper announcing that Treasury owes social security a specified sum of money.

The "trust fund" is stored in a three-ring binder, locked in the bottom drawer of a white metal filing cabinet in the Parkersburg W. Va. offices of the Bureau of Public Debt.

Krugman pretends that there is a "special account" with billions of dollars in it backing up social security - he knows that isn't the case.


Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 1:47 pm

Note that Krugman refers to it as a "so-called trust fund". The fact that the government has been pillaging from the fund that people have paid into all their lives without reimbursing those IOU's, says a hell of a lot more about the corruption of Congress than it does about Krugman, who incidentally is a Nobel-Prize winning economist. But I suppose you think you're smarter.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 2:46 pm

But then what would anyone expect from Krugman. You might as well ask Reich.

MediCaid doesn't even have an IOU but, in practice, it doesn't make much difference.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 2:49 pm

'By law, income to the trust funds must be invested, on a daily basis, in securities guaranteed as to both principal and interest by the Federal government. All securities held by the trust funds are "special issues" of the United States Treasury. Such securities are available only to the trust funds.
In the past, the trust funds have held marketable Treasury securities, which are available to the general public. Unlike marketable securities, special issues can be redeemed at any time at face value. Marketable securities are subject to the forces of the open market and may suffer a loss, or enjoy a gain, if sold before maturity. Investment in special issues gives the trust funds the same flexibility as holding cash.'

Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 3:27 pm

"left pocket; right pocket" shuffling of obligations. The more important point is that the monies you pay into SSI do not go into a fund or pool at all - they get used to pay existing retirees and, since the cashflows have been in surplus because of the baby boom generation, all has been fine.

But the system as designed envisaged 20 workers to each retiree, not the 2 to 1 ratio we will likely face when the boomer have all retired.

Throw in medicare and medicaid and you're looking at a tsunami of unfunded liabilities going out for decades. I would not want to be a kid now because they are the ones that will either have to fund this or let their parent die poor and sick.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 3:56 pm

The fund is *not* a fiction. How do you think people on SS are still receiving their EARNED benefits? Read on~

"As Social Security draws down its trust fund, it sells bonds back to the Treasury. The money it gets for those bonds comes from the general fund, which means that it does indeed have an effect on the deficit.

"That much is true. But the idea that the trust fund is a "fiction" is absolutely wrong. And since this zombie notion is bound to come up repeatedly over the next few weeks, it's worth explaining why it's wrong. So here it is.

"Starting in 1983, the payroll tax was deliberately set higher than it needed to be to cover payments to retirees. For the next 30 years, this extra money was sent to the Treasury, and this windfall allowed income tax rates to be lower than they otherwise would have been. During this period, people who paid payroll taxes suffered from this arrangement, while people who paid income taxes benefited.

"Now things have turned around. As the baby boomers have started to retire, payroll taxes are less than they need to be to cover payments to retirees. To make up this shortfall, the Treasury is paying back the money it got over the past 30 years, and this means that income taxes need to be higher than they otherwise would be. For the next few decades, people who pay payroll taxes will benefit from this arrangement, while people who pay income taxes will suffer.

"If payroll taxpayers and income taxpayers were the same people, none of this would matter. The trust fund really would be a fiction. But they aren't. Payroll taxpayers tend to be the poor and the middle class. Income taxpayers tend to be the upper middle class and the rich. Long story short, for the past 30 years, the poor and the middle class overpaid and the rich benefited. For the next 30 years or so, the rich will overpay and the poor and the middle class will benefit.

"The trust fund is the physical embodiment of that deal."

Posted by And the rich made out like bandits on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 4:12 pm

Except of course when I get it from The Onion

Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 4:35 pm

While I agree these are not the cuts the government should be making, the current budget policies are unsustainable. A country can't borrow 20% or 40% of its annual budget and expect life to improve for the majority of its residents. The interest paid on the debt is a very real cost, squeezing expenses of other valuable programs and services. When interest rates eventually revert back to the more normal range of 4-7% on high-quality government debt, the interest costs could be consuming over 20% of the entire budget. We're talking tens of billions being paid to the wealthiest bondholders. How can anyone support that unless they're a wealthy bondholder or Wall Street banker that makes money selling the debt?

The government currently gives away so much money to wealthy groups, such as multi-national companies that reduce taxes by shipping jobs overseas, or hundreds of billions of tax subsidies given to the biggest landlords and property speculators, and hundreds of billions of other tax write-offs handed to big and small businesses alike. These are the pots of money service providers should target to increase funding for the vital services they provide to the aged, sick, low-income, veteran, disabled, and many other worthy groups.

One of the most important demands we can ask from government is to produce a balanced budget, without using any debt, and to pay off the wealthy bondholders using money that is already given to wealthy groups through tax subsidies and under-taxation.

Arguing for more debt and higher interest payments, regardless of the critical need for various programs, supports the wealthy bondholders and Wall Street bankers, while making life much worse for lower and middle income working people.

Posted by Guest4 on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 9:11 am

fiat and bond binge excesses which will bury us if not stopped.

States and Municipalities have made many of the harsh, difficult spending cuts, but Congress really hasn't started that yet. The Sequester is a blunt instrument but, right now, it's the only tool we have.

And it could turn out to be pro-growth, as Kudlow persuasively argued the other day.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 10:02 am

Congress undelegating the power to create currency from the Fed would be a Good First Step.

There is no need to debt finance the creation or currency or government shortfalls.

Print up as much money as you need and then tax it away if it become inflationary.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 10:31 am

deficit spending, inflation and the printing of debased money will be impossible.

I wouldn't just take powers away from the Fed. I'd abolish the Fed.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 12:58 pm

Congress can make as much currency as it wants. It can back that currency with gold or not at all. So long as the government requires that you pay taxes in that currency, people will use that currency. The inflation rules that worked with the gold standard until 1973 do not apply to either the debt backed FRB fiat currency or a government produced currency.

The government also licenses private banks with the power to expand the money supply through credit. This has been highly inflationary in the sectors where that credit has been cranked out into, such as in the housing market. Funny how nobody right of far left is complaining about inflation in the housing market when their equity climbs! All it takes is a crimping of credit as we've seen for the broad base of housing prices that depend solely on the local wage base to collapse.

Money only has value when it is spent to buy something or leveraged into credit. It is that "use value," as Marx called it, that determines the value of money at any given time. Otherwise the value of money is like equity in a home, all on paper.

Yes, government could print up enough money so that it would cause generalized inflation within the economy. But that would require some effort and carelessness. And in any event, all the government would need to do is to tax away excess money wherever demand far outstripped supply and inflation resulted.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 2:28 pm

Let's all enable continued corrupt dysfunction for everyone just so that there are no cuts to services for "the most vulnerable."

Pentagon cuts with Social Security and Medicare held harmless? Count me in support of sequestration!

Posted by marcos on Feb. 26, 2013 @ 6:49 pm

There is hope for you yet.

Posted by anon on Feb. 26, 2013 @ 7:25 pm

its support for the passage of a reading comprehension test as a requirement to post comments onto this website.

Such a test would eliminate the comments of anon, the most stupid commenter on all San Francisco websites, depriving readers of gems like the above statement in which anon expresses support for cuts in military spending while leaving Social Security and Medicare untouched.

Down with stupidity!!!

Power to the thoughtful!!!

Posted by San Francisco Anti-Stupidity Campaign on Feb. 26, 2013 @ 10:07 pm

Maybe it's you who needs the reading and comprehension test.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 2:50 am

"After 5 years of negative growth, record-high unemployment and savage cuts to essential safety-net programs, Greek society is beginning to buckle. Diabetics cannot afford their insulin, suicides and anti-depressant usage is off-the-chart, tuberculosis and HIV rates are soaring, and desperate pensioners in Athens have been reduced to dumpster diving outside grocery stores for a few scraps of food to feed themselves and their families. The shocking devolution of a modern nation into a failed state did not happen overnight or without the help of EU bureaucrats and financial potentates who dictate economic policy from Brussels, Frankfort and Berlin. These so-called “managers” have steered the 17-member eurozone into the biggest slump since the Great Depression, imposing belt tightening measures that have choked off growth, sent unemployment skyrocketing, and incited protest and street violence across the continent."

Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 1:48 pm

they could probably afford their bills but most people do not pay taxes.

Throw in a currency that is effectively tied to the strength of Germany, and Greece is going to be a basketcase for decades.

Ditto Italy after the recent election.

The US hasn't even started it's austerity program yet. We'd rather keep borrowing.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 2:52 pm

The Greek debt crisis is the third tier of a more global crisis that began in the summer of 2008 in the United States. The financial speculation engaged in by the major western banks led the world to the brink of the abyss and plunged the economy into recession. Escalating unemployment, flagging incomes and purchasing power are the principal consequences. Governments have saved this financial capitalism, resuscitated the banks, relaunched capitalism with hundreds of billions of Euros and dollars, thereby causing an explosion in debts and deficits and putting the more fragile states such as Greece in a difficult position.

Now the markets, having digested the crisis, are attacking government debts and speculating on the future of the weakest. [...]
And imagine, they sold us the Maastricht treaties, the European Constitution treaty, and the Lisbon treaty as the premises for the construction of a European social and welfare network! What utter nonsense, when we relate this promise to the bleeding imposed upon the Greeks – at 5% interest, moreover.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 3:57 pm

The real truth is that it was insane for the Greeks to think that they could ever match the fiscal prudence of Germany and, without the ability to devalue their currency, Greece was toast from the outset.

The Greeks are free to leave the Euro at any time but, if theyw ant to stay, it's austerity, big time.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 4:33 pm

"With $85 billion across-the-board spending cuts, known as "the sequestration," set to take effect this Friday, a new investigation reveals how billionaire investors, such as Peter Peterson, have helped reshape the national debate on the economy, the debt and social spending. Between 2007 and 2011, Peterson personally contributed nearly $500 million to his Peter G. Peterson Foundation to push Congress to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — while providing tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. Peterson’s main platform has been the Campaign to Fix the Debt. While the campaign is portrayed as a citizen-led effort, critics say the campaign is a front for business groups. The campaign has direct ties to GE, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. Peterson is the former chair and CEO of Lehman Brothers and co-founder of the private equity firm, The Blackstone Group."

Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 4:01 pm

The sequester doesn't touch them. And it only touches MediCaid a small amount.

Defence bears the brunt of the cuts. You'd like that, right?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 4:34 pm

Maybe we should try even more spending cuts?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 01, 2013 @ 11:15 am