Sequester Plus 1 Week

Last week’s congressional continuing resolution avoided the possibility of a government shutdown when the current continuing resolution expired Wednesday.

The action extended funding for government programs through the end of the federal fiscal year on Sept. 30, but left most of the across-the-board cuts from sequestration that went into effect March 1.

Due to uncertainty over what funding would be available, even after the March 1 deadline, many agencies have been taking things as they come in regards to budget matters due to uncertainty over what funding would be available going forward.

Now they have an answer, at least through September.

Some agencies those with a better idea how the recent sequestration cuts will affect their budgets are making efforts to adjust. However, many are still waiting to see what final funding numbers will look like. Still others were granted a reprieve under the continuing resolution and have funding restored to pre-sequestration levels.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates Kinzua Dam, is still working out the effects of cuts.

According to Sheila Tunney with the Pittsburgh District Public Affairs Office, the Corps is, “continuing to assess the impact of the sequestration on the Civil Works Program and its personnel.”

According to Tunney, the cuts will result in an approximate five percent reduction in funding, but the cuts have not been applied, “on a project-specific basis.”

“With possible spending cuts in the near future, the Pittsburgh District and the Corps of Engineers is taking steps to reduce costs while still providing important services to the region,” Tunney said. “Our workforce has been requested to reduce travel costs, limit overtime and curtail temporary duties and professional training that are not mission critical.”

The Warren-Forest Counties Economic Opportunities Council is beginning to work out where cuts will have an impact, but still doesn’t know the full extent to which reductions will affect programs.

“I still do not have concrete answers on the sequestration cuts for many of my contracts,” Executive Director Bob Raible said. “Since many of my contracts are still using fiscal year 2012 funds, I will not know until later this year of the total impact.”

“What I do know,” Raible added, “Head Start is being reduced by $74,000, resulting in a reduction of ten children receiving services. We are also relocating two classroom centers due to the lack of eligible students in their catchment areas.”

Executive Director of Experience, Inc. Farley Wright noted the rapid changes to funding level, from 2012 continuing resolution levels to sequestration levels on March 1 followed by changes to the post-sequestration funding levels less than a month later, have made it difficult to come up with concrete answers on fiscal matters.

“Because the sequestration is essentially a through the back door, irrational process to address matters requiring substantial deliberation, thought and consideration, part of the problem seems to lie in determining the impact of something not particularly well thought out,” Wright said. “We have received no specific guidance as of this date (March 21). We had received some general information earlier, when the sequestration process initially went into effect, but were advised not to do anything for the short term until more specifics could be determined. Now they are proposing to alter what’s being implemented once again, so we will have to await new calculations.”

Experience, Inc. serves as the Warren County Area Agency on Aging.

Some programs were spared cuts through the continuing appropriation.

According to Kathy Mohney, public affairs specialist for the Allegheny National Forest, the move will have no effect on funding levels for the ANF.

Meanwhile, Veterans Affairs health care, including regional compensation and Pennsylvania offices, are exempt from cuts under the continuing resolution, according to Warren County Veterans Affairs Director Ed Burris.