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House Appropriations Members Issue Warning on Sequester Impacts

Wednesday, February 13 2013

Washington, D.C.—In the wake of further warnings about the impact of sequestration on key agencies represented by the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), the leader of the union reemphasized her call for Congressional action to avoid these draconian budget cuts.

In a report released today, Minority members of the House Appropriations Committee outlined the projected impact of sequestration on a variety of government agencies and functions—including NTEU-represented agencies, among them the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Social Security Administration (SSA) and Indian Health Service (IHS).

“The impacts outlined in this report underscore the position NTEU has been arguing strongly for—namely, that sequestration must be avoided for the good of the country,” President Kelley said.

In their report, the House members warned that sequestration would be “particularly devastating to the IRS” since it would require furloughs during the 2012 tax-filing season. It also cited the likelihood of longer telephone hold times for taxpayers seeking help; and fewer enforcement personnel being available to investigate fraudulent claims, leading to an increase in the number of identity theft cases unresolved.

“Further, each dollar invested in enforcement actions returns $4 in additional revenue to the Treasury,” they said. “Cutting investment in enforcement will lead directly to an increase in the deficit.”

As for CBP, the report said that furloughs of between 12 and 14 days likely would occur, and would “significantly increase wait times” at the nation’s ports of entry. At the busiest times, they said, wait times would regularly reach three or more hours. “These delays would dramatically impact air travel, potentially causing thousands of missed passenger connections daily, and negatively impact our economy,” their report said.

According to the Committee members, cuts at the FDA would put agency funding at the level of three years ago. “With reduced funding, recent landmark legislation—the Food Safety Modernization Act—would be even more difficult to implement,” they said. Improved oversight in safety of food and medical devices could be lost, the report said.

The mission of keeping markets safe for investors and new areas of enforcement for the SEC, such as hedge funds and over-the-counter derivatives, is also threatened, the report said. “When we reduce oversight of the market, the market becomes vulnerable, and recovery is threatened,” it said.

At SSA, disability claims and disability hearings would be delayed.

And, they noted that under sequestration, the IHS “would suffer a major setback,” in the form of budget cuts of several hundred million dollars. In all, they said, this agency would be forced to provide 3,000 fewer inpatient admissions and 804,000 fewer outpatient visits. “Native Americans already die at significantly higher rates than other Americans from a host of diseases,” they noted.

President Kelley has been a vocal advocate of steps to stop sequestration and the resulting impact not only on federal employees and their agencies, but on the public as well.

NTEU is the largest independent federal union, representing 150,000 employees in 31 agencies and departments.

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