By DOUG WILSON
Herald-Whig Senior Writer
As $85 billion in federal budget cuts take affect today, Julie Schuckman is more focused on what it will mean to local Head Start students.
Schuckman is executive director of the Quincy Early Childhood and Family Center, where 314 children are enrolled in Head Start. She was told that up to 8.2 percent of Quincy's $1.7 million federal funding stream could be cut.
"It could cost us between $130,000 to $140,000. That might force us to cut services for 30 to 60 students and up to six staff members," Schuckman said.
Federal budget cuts are automatically occurring through a process known as the sequester. It was set in motion when members of a congressional supercommittee failed to agree on budget cuts or tax increases more than a year ago. President Barack Obama and members of the committee agreed that across-the-board cuts in agencies, deep cuts in military spending and several tax increases would take place on Jan. 1 if Congress did not negotiate a more ordered agreement.
Part of the "fiscal cliff" was avoided two months ago when tax increases were allowed to take effect, but other parts of the plan -- mostly spending cuts -- were delayed until today.
On Thursday, two ill-fated proposals aimed at blunting the blame over the cuts -- one Democratic and the other Republican -- failed to overcome procedural hurdles in the Senate. The president has summoned the top bipartisan congressional leadership to the White House today for a meeting designed to give all sides a chance to stake out their fiscal positions.
Many programs for low-income Americans are protected from the immediate cuts while the Pentagon -- whose budget has long been a target of the left -- faces across-the-board cuts of 8 percent and up to 13 percent in some of its accounts.
According to White House reports, Illinois will face more than $223 million in known cuts, and Missouri more than $129 million. Other cuts will become apparent in coming weeks.
"It makes me sick," said Lynn Niewohner, director of the Area Agency on Aging.
"We have not had a raise in 20 years. Money for senior citizens hasn't gone up. We've been doing for ourselves with fundraisers and now we're waiting to see how big the cuts are."
She said new people wanting to enroll on the Meals on Wheels program might get put on a waiting list. Other programs that already are bare bones could be hit by the cuts, Niewohner said.
Rich Royalty, who manages finances for the Quincy Public School District, said special education funding is at stake, but no detailed information is available.
"We've been told they'll work this out and nothing really happens until later in March," Royalty said.
Brent Engel of the North East Community Action Council said the agency will not come to a halt.
"The sky is not falling. We have planned and budgeted. We have a $26 million budget, serving 12 counties in Northeast Missouri," Engel said, noting that part of NECAC's money is from federal and state governments, the rest from local sources.
Chuck Traxler, spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said it may be a week before he knows what will happen in area national wildlife refuges. There are seven staff positions at the Clarence Cannon National Wildlife Refuge near Monroe City, Mo., and a few more shared with the Great River National Wildlife Refuge between Quincy and LaGrange, Mo., and the Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge near Fieldon.
John Wood Community College in Quincy may lose $75,000.
"It's a moving target, but that's the best figure we've got right now," said JWCC President John Letts.
He said the federal fiscal year and the college's fiscal year are not synchronized, so officials are still checking to see when cuts will be felt. Letts said the college work student program, the supplemental education opportunity program and student support services all would be affected.
"We serve 160 students with these programs and well over 800 precollege students," Letts said.
Western Illinois University at Macomb will lose $20,000 from its work study program, affecting 12 to 15 students this fall, according to director of financial aid Bob Andersen.
A supplemental education opportunity grant also could be cut $22,000 to $23,000. The grant has been available for very needy students.
"Our fear is that once this is reduced it won't be recouped. The lower amount will be our base" in coming years," Andersen said.
Transportation Security Administration agents at Quincy Regional Airport were ordered not to talk about what federal cuts would mean for those who screen airline passengers. Calls to the TSA were referred to the Department of Homeland Security.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack wrote in a letter to the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee that the sequester would cut nearly $2 billion from the USDA budget. Those cuts would:
º Eliminate 600,000 recipients from the Women, Infants, and Children program.
º Furlough USDA beef and poultry inspectors as much as 15 days, forcing the frequent closing of meat industry facilities and affecting $10 billion in private sector meat sales.
º Furlough workers in other USDA offices, affecting programs for farmers and ranchers.
º Eliminate of $60 million in agricultural research grants.
A list of cuts by state is available at is.gd/whig0301cuts