Californians uneasy as sequester cuts loom

March 1, 2013 5:58:45 PM PST
Barring a last-minute deal in Washington to stave off sequestration, $85 billion in automatic federal spending cuts will take effect by 9 p.m. local time Friday.

The billions in cuts will be phased in over the next few weeks and months. That's when we'll really know the effects of sequestration. In the meantime, Californians are confused and anxious and waiting.

Job seeker Terry Ojeda doesn't know what the sequestration cuts will mean for him.

The Employment Development Department has been expecting to cut unemployment benefit extensions by 10 percent.

But the U.S. Department of Labor hasn't said yet what states need to do, making for some anxious days for the long-term unemployed who are waiting to see if their checks are smaller.

"You're talking about almost $100 a month for me, and I'm on the borderline right now," Ojeda said.

The California Professional Firefighters Union hasn't gotten any direction either. In the past, first responders and other emergency personnel were exempt from automatic budget cuts during gridlock.

Since there's no talk of immunity this time, more than 700 federal firefighters throughout the state fear they'll get layoff or furlough notices.

Carroll Wills from California Professional Firefighters said: "In this case, we don't know if that's going to happen, and most of our folks have to operate on the assumption that it will happen."

Schools, too, are already planning for the worst because no layoffs are allowed by law during the school year. Sequestration guarantees millions less for education.

District administrators are already trying to meet the March 15 deadline when the state must hand out layoff notices if they anticipate any funding shortages during the next school year.

"There'll be more layoffs than there certainly would have been because of this sequestration issue. So we are going to see an uptick in the number of layoffs that we see on March 15 as a result of the Congress' inaction," said Kevin Gordon, a schools budget consultant.

House Republicans are expected to put up for a vote next week a continuing budget resolution that gives Senate Democrats a chance to pass it or bring up an alternative to avoid a government shutdown.


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