Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4) joined Council 4 AFSCME union members and Bridgeport Housing Authority (BHA) tenants in pointing out the increasing damage of sequestration during a press conference today at the Harborview Towers in Bridgeport. BHA residents will suffer dirtier hallways, rundown bathrooms and significantly diminished service if employees are laid off as a result of the federal sequester.
"Thanks to sequestration, children will be kicked out of Head Start, there will be fewer teachers, law-enforcement will be weakened and, as we can see in our own neighborhood, public housing budgets will be slashed," Himes said. "These are just some of examples of why we need to replace sequestration with a balanced plan that protects the most vulnerable and makes the investments in education and infrastructure we know will help create jobs now and fuel prosperity for this generation and the next."
BHA workers say the federal sequestration results in far fewer dollars for BHA, which has put pressure on the agency's budget, leading to the possibility that 14 workers will be laid off from an already shrinking workforce.
"These cuts are happening because Republicans in Congress would rather throw Americans out of work and slash vital services than eliminate special interest tax loopholes for corporations and millionaires," said AFSCME Local 2311 President Tom Keenan, a maintenance aide at BHA.
AFSCME Local 2311 represents 75 workers at the Housing Authority and is the largest of the four bargaining units representing BHA employees.
"There is a limited amount that my members can do if their ranks and resources continue to shrink further," said Keenan. "Unfortunately, the residents are the ones who will suffer as conditions in their homes continue to deteriorate, just like any home would without maintenance."
Local 2311 Vice President Monica Ratley, a certified occupancy specialist, added, "Our tenants are the ones most hurt by the sequestration cuts. It's an outrage that the most vulnerable and needy must bear the burden while the rich just get richer. It doesn't take a Ph.d economist to figure out that the money the rich are hoarding is hurting the rest of us. This has to stop."
"It feels like whenever there are budget cuts, public housing and the people who depend on public housing get hit first," said Bettie Cook, President of the Bridgeport Housing Authority Resident Affairs Board (RAB). "These cuts are damaging our lives and our neighborhoods."
Hadassah Nightingale, Vice President of the RAB, added, "Budget cuts are disrupting our lives. We don't want to see staff laid off and services cut to the bone. It's not right."