Watching Sequestration

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At the beginning of this month, sequestration cuts officially went into effect on a federal level. Touted by the Obama administration as a devastating set of cuts, sequestration nonetheless started off with little fanfare outside of Washington, D.C.

A number of national nonprofit organizations and nonprofit industry publications, however, are sounding the alarm bells about what kind of impact sequestration cuts could have on nonprofits around the country. The picture they paint is bleak.

The sequester was never meant to happen — it was an agreement that Congress and the President arrived at during debt ceiling debates in 2011 that was meant to force agreement on longer-term deficit reduction that both Democrats and Republicans could agree on. The cuts on government spending were designed to be so deep to programs that both liberals and conservatives value that neither party would want to see them go into effect.

Partisan rifts apparently run deep, however, and here we are two weeks into the sequestration cuts. According to National Council of Nonprofits President and CEO Tim Delaney, nonprofit organizations will almost certainly be strained by the cuts, even if they don’t rely on federal funding or pursue federal grants.

“As the reality of sequestration cuts play out, the work of nonprofits is going to become even more difficult from multiple, compounding factors as many are hit by direct funding cuts to programs, hit again as state and local governments cut their funding further to make up for their own budgets being cut, and hit a third time as people who are furloughed or laid off as part of sequestration turn to nonprofits for help in unprecedented numbers,” Delaney said in an interview with The Nonprofit Times on March 7.

In Austin, the cuts are already impacting some nonprofits. Meals on Wheels and More told the Austin American Statesman that it expects to lose more than $200,000 through the end of September for its Travis County, Williamson County and Burnet County operations. That has already translated to some layoffs and a waiting list for potential clients.

According to the White House, Texas stands to lose $2.4 million toward response to public health issues like infectious diseases and natural disasters, $3.5 million in food assistance for seniors and more than $10 million for fish and wildlife protection and efforts to protect air and water quality due to the sequestration.

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A native New Englander, Kate moved to Austin in 2002 to attend graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin, where she got her master’s degree in journalism. She spent several years as a reporter with the Austin Business Journal, where she covered health care, development and real estate. Kate now runs Thumbtack Communications, where she provides ghostwriting, copywriting, social media strategy and PR in addition to writing bylined articles. She lives in Central Austin with her husband, son, and two cranky cats. When she’s not writing, she’s playing guitar, gardening or hiking.