“Sequestration” = Big VITA Losses for Families
Could tens of thousands of families lose access to VITA’s free tax preparation services in 2013?
The federal VITA grant appears destined for an 8.2 percent cut – about $984,000 – under across-the-board budget reductions scheduled to take place in January. This VITA damage could affect services for up to 34,700 households, by NCTC calculations. And it’s just one example of how so-called “sequestration” cuts could erode crucial education, health care, and human services, unless Congress soon takes action to avoid what otherwise will amount to a full 10 years of such annual reductions.
Those drastic measures are rooted in the way policymakers decided to approach federal deficit reduction late last year:
- First, policymakers slashed more than $1 trillion from federally supported priorities ranging from education and medical research to environmental protection and low-income housing assistance.
- Next, they assigned a Congressional “supercommittee” to determine how to find an additional $1.2 trillion in savings over the coming decade.
- That panel’s failure triggered the automatic sequestration process that’s set to start in January: annual cuts of about $109 billion, divided equally between defense and non-defense discretionary spending.
“Discretionary” programs include hundreds of supports vital to the well-being of working families – including VITA’s tax prep, asset building, and financial education services for low- and moderate-income households.
Several in Congress already are scrambling to change course and avoid sequestration, although election season is frustrating the work. And some policymakers are working to avoid only defense cuts – which would deepen the cuts directed at all other priorities.
There certainly are far better policy alternatives.
While damaging budget cuts already have taken place and more undoubtedly will be adopted, Congress should raise new revenues to offset at least some of the cuts that will cause the most pain to families in need. This is also an important component of efforts to avoid going over a “fiscal cliff” and inviting another economic downturn.
NCTC already has joined thousands of our partners across the nation in calling for a balanced approach in shrinking the deficit, avoiding an overly simplistic and destructive, “cuts-only” framework. We ask our network of members and friends to help us continue to convey that message to Congress.
Call your U.S. Representative and Senators today through the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
Ask them to raise new revenues as part of a balanced approach to deficit reduction, to avoiding at least some of the cuts that otherwise would hurt families nationwide.
Sequestration threats are overshadowing the news regarding Congress’ recent extension – to next March 27 – of its target date for finalizing a budget covering the federal fiscal year that started this month. While that agreement leaves the government operating and VITA’s federal grant uncut for now, sequestration certainly could alter the picture dramatically.
By Sean Noble, Director of Public Policy & Research