13 INVESTIGATES: Sequester Cuts in Alabama - WVTM-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Birmingham, AL

13 INVESTIGATES: Sequester Cuts in Alabama

13 INVESTIGATES: Sequester Cuts in Alabama

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ALABAMA -

From the unemployment office, to the IRS, to medical research, if an Alabama agency or department receives federal dollars, it and the people who use its services are likely impacted by the across the board federal budget cuts called the sequester.

Alabama Department of Labor, Tara Hutchison said, "It's a change, it's a cut in benefits which obviously no one likes to experience."

UAB Cancer Center Director, Dr. Ed Partridge said, "We have the potential, if this continues, to lose some really brilliant minds that are out there."

Jefferson County Child Development Council Executive Director, Cassie Harris said, "When I get to thinking about how the families feel, I know that it is a difficult time for them."

The list is long of agencies and services that were cut nationwide. Those in yellow - are cuts made affecting services in Alabama. The White House breaks it down into seven categories that affect the very young, college-age and seniors in addition to government employees who will experience furloughs this summer.

Estimated Alabama dollars lost - 300 million. More than 75 thousand people: employees, students and those who use specific services will feel a direct brunt of the cuts. That includes 27-thousand military personnel who will be furloughed.

IRS employees are also being affected by the sequester. They will lose 5 days of pay thanks to furloughs. Also on these furlough days telephone hotlines will be closed and tax returns will not be processed.

There may not be any love lost for the days the IRS offices are closed but moms of little ones in need of daycare and head start are crying foul, especially after the local head start office said it was closing its doors this summer.

Head Start Parent, Ashley Ruffin said, "I was shocked. As a parent what do you expect me to do with my child for 10 weeks."

For the unemployed, those receiving benefits beyond 26 weeks, saw a nearly 13% cut in their weekly checks. According to the state's Department of Labor for someone getting $205 a week, that's $27. An estimated 15,000 Alabamians are affected.

This man, Richard Willis, is one of them. Unemployed for nine months now he said he's adjusting to the change in his check.

Unemployed, Richard Willis said, "I didn't notice it. It didn't affect me, a few dollars."

From the unemployed to those employed in medical research…

UAB's Cancer Center receives 80% of its budget or $120 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health. The NIH's budget was cut due to sequestration. UAB has one of 41 centers in the US that focuses on curing cancer research from the lab to practical medical treatments. The center's director fears the NIH funding cuts could displace doctors, their future discoveries lost.

Dr. Partridge said, "And taking chances, taking risks, developing very innovative grants and contracts that are right on the cutting edge of what we need to learn, but go unfunded, therefore never tested, and we never know."

Although no researchers will experience furloughs, Dr. Partridge has left two support staff positions unfilled due to sequestration.

At least one agency has gotten its funding back - the Federal Aviation Administration for air traffic controllors. Furloughs have been cancelled, and so have plans to close smaller airport towers. Congressman Spencer Bacchus blames the FAA for creating the emergency.

US Representative District 6 (R), Spencer Bacchus said "It was almost as if they were trying to create an emergency that wasn't there. Linda asks: "So you blame them for congress having to take the vote?" Bacchus answers: "Absolutely."

His counterpart in the House Congresswoman Terri Sewell told me she fears not everyone believes sequestration is impacting them because they aren't feeling the financial pinch.

US Representative District 7 (D), Terri Sewell said, "The fact that we've been able to minimize the lines at the airport and give some relief to FAA is not fair when we haven't given relief to the mother who can't get her child into head start, or to the veteran seeking to get their benefits and the paperwork is taking a lot longer."

It's not likely Alabama will see a return of the 300 million dollars lost. But will congress be able to solve their differences to create a budget that avoids sequestration?

Congressman Bacchus told me yes but said deeper cuts will need to be made to what he called the nation's entitlement programs: Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security Disability in order to balance the budget.

Without a budget deal, sequester cuts are expected to go through 2021, and are estimated to see a savings totaling 1.1 trillion dollars in the federal budget.

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