Federal spending cuts could have personal impact on Hoosiers

Federal cuts could impact Hoosiers who use an Indianapolis senior center.
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President Barack Obama says "just a little bit of compromise" can keep across-the-board spending cuts from taking effect.

The deadline is Friday, March 1. If there is no agreement by then, $85 billion in cuts will kick in.

The White House has sent out a letter showing the impact of the cuts on every state. The letter says Indiana will lose nearly $14 million for schools. And, it says the Department of Defense will have to furlough 11,000 civilian employees.

Some Republicans say that the White House is exaggerating the impact of the Sequester. U.S. Sen. Dan Coats (R-Indiana) says "Rather than resorting to scare tactics, President Obama should abandon his call for more taxes and instead agree to responsible...reductions."

What could the impact on Indiana be?

The FAA says spending cuts would have a big impact on air traffic facilities across the state. If there is no spending compromise, air traffic facilities could close in Gary, West Lafayette, Muncie, Terre Haute, Bloomington and Columbus. The FAA says it could also eliminate overnight shifts in Terre Haute and Fort Wayne.

Citybeat Reporter Mary Milz took a look at some other programs at risk.

Located in an older neighborhood just south of downtown, the Southeast Community Service center is a lifeline for many area seniors, like Sue Wethington. She goes to the senior center there on a daily basis.

"I mean, because a lot of us don't have nowhere to go and this is where they come when you ain't got nowhere to go," Wethington said. "I know a lot of people say that's an old folks home, but it's a place we can come and be ourselves."

The center is one 30 in central Indiana where CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions provides low-cost or free meals to older, low-income Hoosiers.

Site Manager John Blanchard pointed to the days offerings.

"They get the main course, two vegetables their dessert, juice and milk all for a $2 contribution and if they don't have $2, we serve them anyway," Blanchard said.

Because it's a program funded by the Older Americans Act, it could be cut back or available to fewer people if automatic spending cuts kick in.

CICOA President and CEO Orion Bell said, "it would be about 35,000 fewer meals we would serve and we serve about 500,000 meals a year, so it would be a noticeable dent, the equivalent of 3-4 centers perhaps not being able to operate the way they do now... We'd have to find some other alternatives or not serve as many meals."

Clara Boyd, who's been coming to the center for seven years said of the potential cuts, "I don't like it because they're trying to cut all our low (income) programs out and us seniors, we need someplace to go... Some may not have a meal. This might be the only meal a person gets."

Bell noted CICOA does home delivery of meals and has a senior transit program, which would also face cuts.

A number of college students would feel the pinch, too, as there would be less money for the Federal work study program.

Steve McAloon, who's studying mortuary science at Ivy Tech Community College is one of 504 Ivy Tech students who rely on work study to help pay his way.

"The Federal work study lets me earn a little money while going to school full-time, so it helps me out a lot," he said. "That way you don't have to take out a student loan and you don't have to worry about being in debt."

Also, bracing for cuts? The 4,000 people who work at the Defense Departments Finance & Accounting Center in Lawrence. If a budget agreement isn't reached by Friday, they will be forced to take one furlough day a week for 22 weeks, starting at the end of April. That amounts to a 20 percent pay cut.

Tom LaRock, deputy director of corporate communications said, while they hope the cuts will be averted, "we have to plan that it's going to happen."

Bell said they were doing the same.

"This was supposed to be the doomsday scenario that didn't happen, but we're now having conversations about this being a real possibility," he said.

See how Indiana will be affected if no compromise is reached by the March 1st deadline.