By RICHARD S. DUNHAM
New York Times News Service
WASHINGTON — It’s almost certain that the “sequester” will go into effect Friday. That’s when the Obama administration is preparing to implement $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts, half in domestic spending and half in Pentagon outlays.
Republicans say President Obama is exaggerating the potential impact of the cuts on all of us in an attempt to frighten the American people. We’ll find out soon enough.
Here are some of the ways you could feel the difference in coming weeks:
1. Longer lines at airline security.
The Federal Aviation Administration is predicting waits of up to 90 minutes at airline security checkpoints. Major hubs such as New York, Houston, Atlanta and San Francisco are likely to be among the hardest-hit.
2. Flight delays and cancellations.
Don’t plan on getting where you want to on time. About 10 percent of air traffic controllers will be furloughed at any time, leading to longer waits on the runway — but not in a predictable pattern. Nineteen regional airports will lose their federal tower operations.
3. A disaster disaster. FEMA will lose $375 million from its disaster-relief budget.
4. Backed-up borders. The Department of Homeland Security warns of delays of four hours or more at U.S. ports of entry. You could be affected if you’re crossing the border from Mexico or Canada, taking a cruise, or arriving on an international flight.
5. Pain down the Pentagon supply chain. Defense-dependent states such as Hawaii, Virginia, Texas and Connecticut will be particularly hard-hit. In Virginia, for example, 90,000 civilian Defense Department workers could be furloughed. In Texas, that number is 52,000 — costing employees an estimated $274.8 million in lost pay.
Modernization, maintenance and demolition projects at military facilities could be put on hold or canceled. Some defense contractors already are laying off workers because of coming cuts in Pentagon outlays.
6. Delays in receiving international shipments. If you’re waiting for that delivery from overseas — or if your company depends on imported parts or material — you’ll just have to wait longer. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano predicts that imported goods will be delayed at U.S. ports because of required furloughs. “When you slow down the inspection of containers by up to five days … that translates into lots and lots of jobs, good paying jobs, and those are going to be impacted,” she said.
7. Spot shortages of meat. The administration has announced plans to furlough 2,100 food inspectors. That could lead to delays in inspecting meat, producing spot shortages over time and increasing the chance of food-borne illness.
8. Financial aid cuts. Primary and secondary schools will feel the pinch with reductions in Head Start and special education funding. But the greatest education-related impact will be felt by university students in need of financial aid. Federal work-study programs will be whacked, and low-income students could lose more than $300 from their Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants. Other students will face higher loan-origination fees the next time they secure a loan.
9. Mental illness funding. Social programs from pre-school to health-care stand to lose 10 percent or more of their federal funding. That will force states and localities to either increase their contributions or face service cuts. One example: 373,000 mentally ill adults and children would be required to go without treatment if states don’t step in to replace lost federal revenues.
10. Disrupted vacations. This would not be the best year to take a spring break at a National Park or other federal recreational area. With $110 million in cuts coming to the National Parks Service, reduced services and spot closures are likely. Make sure to plan ahead and check ahead before you leave for vacation.