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CBC Hour: The Impact of Sequestration

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. LEE of California. Let me thank you for your tremendous leadership and pulling us all together tonight to talk about this impact of sequestration. And I also want to thank our chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Marcia Fudge, for once again sounding the alarm and keeping us on track.

Let me first just start by saying we need to stop the sequestration, and we need to create jobs, lift the economy and reduce poverty.

The sequester will impact my congressional district in my home State of California and every single household in America. It will push 750,000 Americans into the unemployment line and slow our entire economy.

In my home State, for example, it will cut 8,200 children from Head Start and shut the door to college for about 9,600 students. Additionally, 600,000 to 775,000 eligible low-income women and children are going to be denied nutritional assistance because they're going to be cut from the WIC program.

Sequestration will impact everyone, but it will have a particularly harmful effect on communities of color who were hit first and worst by the Great Recession and have yet to significantly feel the effects of the recovery.

Let me just read out 10 reasons which were recently highlighted by the Center for American Progress, and why communities of color and the African American community and Latino community particularly should pay attention to sequestration and the impact it will have in these communities.

First, there are going to be deep cuts to the long-term unemployed and the reduction of benefits will disproportionately affect people of color.

Extended Federal unemployment benefits remain vulnerable under sequestration, and the long-term unemployed--those out of work and searching for a new job for at least 6 months--could lose almost 10 percent, mind you, 10 percent of their weekly jobless benefits if the sequester goes into effect.

Now, 13.8 percent of African Americans and 9.7 percent of Latinos are unemployed. Worse than that, 40 percent of unemployed Asians, 38 percent of African Americans and 28 percent of Latinos have been unemployed for more than 52 weeks.

Secondly, workforce development programs that are vital to communities of color such as YouthBuild and Job Corps face significant cuts. YouthBuild is a program that connects low-income youth to education and training, and it could be cut about 8 percent

Cuts to critical job-creation programs such as Build America Bonds are also on the chopping block. This was created in 2009 and provides incentives for infrastructure investments through the Tax Code.

Fourth, Federal budget cuts under sequestration would quickly mean cuts to Federal, State, and local public sector jobs which disproportionately employ women and African Americans. In 2011, employed African Americans comprised 20 percent of the Federal, State, and local public sector workforce, and women were nearly 50 percent more likely than men to work in the public sector.

Early child care funding could be cut by more than $900 million, impacting thousands of children of color who benefit from these programs, programs that directly help the most vulnerable families and children such as, as I said earlier, WIC. They're threatened by sequestration.

Federal education funding cuts will disproportionately hurt students of color. If sequester goes into effect in the way it has been designed, nearly $3 billion would be cut in educational loans, including cuts to financial aid for students and to programs for our most vulnerable youth.

Cuts to medical research put patients at risk. The National Institutes of Health would lose $1.5 billion in medical research funding, meaning fewer research projects would be aimed at finding treatments and cures for diseases such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, and diabetes, all of which are among the leading cause of death for African Americans.

Since 2010, funding for housing has been cut by $2.5 billion, meaning any additional cuts would significantly hurt low-income families and communities. Many housing programs, such as section 8 housing assistance, provide vouchers to low-income families for affordable housing in the private sector.

Finally, as the Nation continues to endure a cold winter, programs such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps bring down the cost of heating for low-income households, are critical.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I would like to insert for the Record an article from today's New York Times, headed: ``As Automatic Budget Cuts Go into Effect, Poor May Be Hit Particularly Hard.'' It explains that sequestration cuts, as they are called, still contain billions of dollars in mandatory budget reductions and programs that help low-income Americans, including ones that give vouchers for housing for the poor and the disabled and another that provides fortified baby formula to the children of poor women.

So I think we need to really listen to the Congressional Black Caucus and understand what this means in terms of vulnerable, marginal communities--communities of color and individuals who were hardest hit by the recession and who have yet to feel any of the economic recovery that has taken place and who are going to now have another hit in terms of the safety net and the quality of life. They don't deserve this. We need to get back to the drawing board and do what is right and what is fair.


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