By Peter Kyriacopoulos, Senior Director of Public Policy, APHL
APHL’s executive director, Scott Becker, and senior director of public policy, Peter Kyriacopoulos, attended this morning’s Presidential address on the harm that will occur if Congress fails to act to stop the automatic spending cuts, or sequestration, scheduled for March 1, 2013 – only ten days from today.
The President reiterated that his top priority is to do everything possible to grow the economy and create good, middle-class jobs; he found it very troubling that Congress might allow a series of automatic, severe budget cuts to take place that will do the exact opposite.
The President said, “So these cuts are not smart. They are not fair. They will hurt our economy. They will add hundreds of thousands of Americans to the unemployment rolls. This is not an abstraction — people will lose their jobs. The unemployment rate might tick up again.” The President specifically spoke about the impact that would be felt by first responders (police, fire and EMS) like those who joined him on the stage.
Nonetheless, without Congressional action that results from a compromise, including both reductions in federal spending and increases in taxes, these automatic cuts will occur and their impact will soon be felt – particularly as they reduce the federal funds provided to state and local governmental public health agencies and their laboratories.
The federal agencies that provide funding support for governmental public health laboratories routinely send the vast majority of their program accounts out to state and local governments – leaving only a minimal amount to manage internal operations. These same programs will be reduced most significantly because so little funding is spent on internal operations. It is not unreasonable to anticipate that funding reductions will be close to 10% come March 1, six months into federal fiscal year 2013.
This also adds to the already complicated funding picture, as the temporary spending measure currently funding federal governmental operations expires March 27, 2013. Congress has not been able to arrive at a compromise that would put in place appropriations bills to fund federal agencies.
If Congress allows the automatic cuts, they will then have almost 10% less funding available to resolve the differences in the funding levels that have already confounded them to the point of gridlock.
At this moment, it is very tough to determine a path forward that avoids the painful and ill-considered automatic spending cuts.