Sequestration: No one locally knows what to expect
Sequestration looms in less than 24 hours, but there are few answers as to how cuts in federal spending would impact local programs.
A spokesperson for Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit, which provides services to 17 school districts including those in Northumberland County, said Northumberland Area Head Start and various after-school programs are "forward-funded." After-school programs are funded through the end
of September, which is the end of the fiscal year, and Head Start's funding "runs through November."
Same goes for Title 1 funding used in area schools. Karen Colangelo, federal programs coordinator and newly promoted business manager at Shamokin Area, said that funding stream wouldn't be immediately impacted. She noted the funding has already been reduced between 1 percent and 2 percent annually over the past several years.
Shamokin Area received $764,882 in Title 1 funding for 2012-13 to fund its kindergarten program along with reading support services, including salaries for 9 1/2 teaching positions. A district committee decides on how Title 1 funding is used from year to year, meaning kindergarten isn't especially in jeopardy, but depending on how Title 1 is impacted, it could alter how it's funded.
Neither Colangelo nor the CSIU spokesperson could say how cuts would impact respective programs moving beyond the current fiscal year.
"I think we're all still waiting to see what happens. It's like there's no detail on the impact," said Steve Curran, outgoing business manager at Shamokin Area. "If we knew the impact, we could be lobbying. No one knows and no one is really lobbying because no one knows the impact."
"Right now it is not known what the impact will be. To date, numbers that have been released are in statewide, aggregate form (rather than by region or service provider), so it is difficult to translate that into how it would affect CSIU programming and clients," Jennifer Spotts, CSIU public relations manager, wrote in an email to The News-Item.
Aging, WIC impact
Patricia Rumberger, administrator of Northumberland County's Area Agency on Aging, also is unsure on what impact sequestration could have on senior services locally. She expects a clearer understanding could come next Wednesday when a statewide agency directors meeting is held in Harrisburg.
"That's when we're going to find something out," she said.
Brett Campbell, program director for Women, Infants and Children in Northumberland County and elsewhere, said the food nutrition program is not among the protected entitlement programs exempt from such spending cuts.
He, too, isn't sure on the direct effect on the program, which has an office in downtown Shamokin. Hypothetically speaking, he said it could impact staffing and funding for "overhead" like utility and lease payments.
"If they would cut funding, essentially we would have to cut staff," Campbell said.
Family Planning Plus oversees the WIC program in Northumberland, Snyder and Union counties, providing supplemental food vouchers and nutritional education to an estimated 3,400 people each month.
The number of clients it serves has increased as program funding has been cut some 23 percent in recent years. Campbell said the firm has a relatively low administrative budget of 8.2 percent. Eleven employees, plus two peer counselors, float among its five offices throughout the week, as each office can't be open daily.
"We're still here. We're doing what we can. We're trying to do the best possible job we can to help out with the community," he said.