Washington, D.C.—A fact sheet from the White House today warning of severe consequences from sequestration—from many fewer food inspections to thousands of mentally ill adults and children not receiving needed treatment—sharply underscores the need to avoid these drastic, across-the-board budget cuts scheduled for March 1, the leader of the nation’s largest independent union of federal employees said.
“The administration’s fact sheet is a look into a reality our country can and must avoid,” said President Colleen M. Kelley of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU).
Among many other effects, the White House said sequestration would result in:
• The loss of 2,100 fewer food inspections risking outbreaks of foodborne illnesses and putting families at risk;
• Depriving up to 373,000 seriously mentally ill adults and children of needed treatment;
• Significant reduction in the ability of the Internal Revenue Service to assist millions of taxpayers in the height of the tax-filing season;
• The dropping of some 600,000 women and children from nutrition assistance programs;
• As many as 3,000 fewer inpatient admissions and 804,000 fewer outpatient visits among American tribal communities;
• Delays in decision-making for turning new science and technology into life-saving medicines; and
• The loss of access to Head Start and Early Head Start by up to 70,000 children.
“Sequestration would also compromise border security because of a reduction in the numbers of Customs and Border Protection Officers at ports of entry and lead to significantly longer wait times at border crossings,” Kelley said.
“There are those in Congress to whom sequestration is just another political bargaining chip,” President Kelley said. “The realities laid bare by this fact sheet clearly show that sequestration would be a disaster, and would slow economic growth and job creation.”
NTEU’s number one priority, Kelley said, is to ensure that employees can continue to work and meet the missions of their agencies. While the union has had “very preliminary discussions” with agencies, Kelley said, “We have no detailed information on sequestration plans.”
NTEU has been in contact with those it represents on sequestration, along with the March 27 expiration of the continuing resolution and the May 18 deadline for increasing the nation’s debt limit.
“We have been providing our members with detailed information on these issues through e-mail, web sites and local communications,” Kelley said. “That effort will continue as more information becomes available.”
The NTEU leader emphasized that federal employees—who already have contributed $103 billion over 10 years to deficit reduction, thanks to a continuing two-year pay freeze and higher pension contributions—are middle class working people who, like many others, live paycheck to paycheck.
Thus, potential cuts to their pay because of mandated furlough days would constitute a severe financial hardship for them. “This is an untenable situation,” Kelley said, “and one that can be avoided. NTEU will do all it can to mitigate the financial impact on employees.”
NTEU is the largest independent federal union, representing 150,000 employees in 31 agencies and departments.