What Happened with Sequestration?

written by Kate Seif
April 22, 2013

Lately, we’ve been talking a lot about the federal budget. We wrapped up fiscal year (FY) 2013 in mid-March with some good news for HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants: the program received a post-sequestration increase! Shortly after, we released our State of Homelessness in America 2013, and the Administration released its FY 2014 Budget Proposal. In other words, it seems like we’ve moved past all the talk of the fiscal cliff and sequestration. But have we?

The President’s Budget Proposal had some great news for HUD – proposing increases to a variety of programs, including, once again, the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants. All the funding levels proposed by the President for all federal programs include an important caveat – they assume sequestration will be reversed. Well, OK, but where is that assumption coming from? Can we assume that sequestration was just a blip that’s probably going to go away?

The answer, of course, like so many other things related to federal policymaking lately, is that we don’t quite know. No one on either side of the aisle will argue that sequestration is good policy. Indiscriminate cuts to virtually all federal programs won’t make much of a dent in the federal deficit, and they will most certainly have a negative impact on the operation of many federal programs. But unfortunately, sequestration is a done deal. It went into effect on March 1 and while some programs haven’t yet felt the pinch of the 5 percent cut, they no doubt will, with many of those negative impacts being felt as the summer approaches.

Sequestration happened because of a lack of an alternative. Neither party was able to offer something palatable to the other. It was truly politics at its worst. But there is a nascent movement, exemplified in the President’s Budget Proposal, to reverse sequestration. This is doable, but we need your help. The only thing that will stop sequestration is evidence of the truly harmful impacts it’s having on communities across the country.

The Alliance, in conjunction with its national partners, is working to collect evidence from everyone working with the federal programs across the country on the damaging impact of sequestration. We want you to let us know:

  • If your public housing authority (PHA) is rescinding vouchers;
  • If there have been significant changes to your community’s Section 8 waiting lists;
  • If funding cuts are forcing you to change the way your program operates; or
  • If funding shortfalls are leading to layoffs or positions going unfilled.

We’ll be collecting this data over the coming weeks and compiling it in an easy-to-understand fact sheet for lawmakers. We’re hoping that this concrete evidence will convince lawmakers to do the right thing and reverse sequestration. Again, they’ll only act on this if they have a real understanding that the squeeze from sequestration is being felt by their constituents. So please, email me your stories! Together, we can turn this thing around!