Cutting from the bottom - Page 2

Federal budget sequestration would hit the Bay Area's most vulnerable: poor children, battered women, AIDS patients

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Although education will absorb a significant impact from the sequestration, social services across the city will be cut back. San Francisco homeless advocates are forecasting a $1 million cut in federal assistance and AIDS groups have warned that nearly $800,000 dollars in housing vouchers for AIDS patients are on the chopping block. Federal funding for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), which subsidized medical care for AIDS patients, is set to be slashed by nearly 8 percent across the board.

Advocates for the victims of domestic abuse are also worried about the sequester's impact on local survivors of domestic violence. In San Francisco, federal money provides crucial services for victims of domestic violence through nationally-mandated Family Violence and Prevention Services (FVPS). The city's three primary domestic violence shelters rely on this revenue stream for outreach programming, translation services, and extended operating hours. The pending sequester would cut nearly 10 percent of FVPS grants, forcing shelters to tighten their belts.

"The sequester is going to dramatically impact the funding for lifesaving services for domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers, as well as legal service, and children's programs," Beckie Masaki, the founder and former executive director of San Francisco's Asian Women's Shelter, told the Guardian. Masaki now works with the Asian and Pacific Island Institute (APIDV) on Domestic Violence, where she advocates for more federal funding for domestic violence service providers.

Masaki is worried that the cuts will disproportionately impact the city's most vulnerable women: low-income and non-English speaking victims of domestic violence, as cash-strapped shelters lay off translators and cut back on outreach and group therapy.

"In the past, when we were facing cuts, we did our best to minimize the impact on survivors," she explains. "But in this era of constant cuts, it's going to mean layoffs, and ultimately fewer services for the most vulnerable survivors". As lawmakers in Washington scramble to pass a budget deal before the March 1 deadline, the climate of uncertainty leaves local service agencies in a state of limbo. With future funding in doubt, long-term planning and strategizing become increasingly difficult. Yet for many local service providers, the most recent threat of sequestration is a familiar consequence of an increasingly fragile social safety net. According to Masaki, the sequestration should motivate Congress to rethink its budgeting priorities: "If they invest in these baseline life-saving services for those that are most vulnerable in our community, in the end that is the path to better economic and social sustainability for our whole nation."

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