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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
540-483-5113
Fax: 540-483-8013

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Sequestration is hitting home
STEP forced to start cuts

Monday, May 6, 2013

By CHARLES BOOTHE - Staff Writer

Sequestration is finding its way to Franklin County.

One of the organizations that will be hit hard because of the automatic federal cuts that resulted from the budget stalemate is STEP Inc.

Jon Morris, director of STEP, said the organization will lose about $350,000 agency wide, about 5 percent, as a result of sequestration.

"These cuts will affect many programs," he said, including Head Start, Section 8 housing, homeless programs, Virginia CARES senior meals and the weatherization program.

Head Start will lose about $100,000, and the Redwood Early Head Start classroom has already been closed, Morris said.

"We will lose eight EHS (Early Head Start) slots for children and families," he said, "and three full-time staff positions will be downsized."

All Head Start and Early Head Start classrooms will also be closed one day each month from August to December to cut costs, he said, and all Head Start staff will be furloughed those five days.

Other cuts will be coming over the summer.

"We will have to reduce services in senior meals and other areas to meet our 5-percent cut," he said. "Other staff may be furloughed as well, but we hope we will not have to downsize any more employees."

It's too early to tell about the exact cuts to the homeless programs, but "we know they are coming," Morris said.

"With a lot of the federal funds that are being cut, information on how much to cut has not been released to us yet," he said. "As of today (May 1), we received an email concerning our Senior Meals cuts. We have to cut nearly $4,500 from our meals program for the remainder of this program year, which lasts until September 30."

"The longer it takes us to hear about these cuts, the harder it is on us to make the cuts without inflicting greater damage on our staff or clients," he added.

Weatherization cuts will actually occur during the next program year, which will begin on Oct. 1. 

"The reason for this is because of the way funding is approved on a federal level and when it is allocated to the states to use," he said. "What the cuts mean to weatherization and homeless services is a reduction in services to those who need it most ... how much we reduce those services is determined on the amount of cuts. It's very possible we could lose approximately $30,000 between the two programs."

Congress has acted to intervene on behalf of meat inspectors and the airline industry air traffic controllers, but without that intervention, the cuts are considered permanent, Morris said.

"I fully don't expect Congress to do anything to restore our cuts in funding and to the low-income families who are still struggling in our region," he said.

Morris said it was shame to close the Redwood classroom.

"Redwood has been an amazing partner and if, by some crazy chance, we get funding restored, we plan on returning there and they would welcome us back," he said. "Like the other cuts, these will continue in the future for us. However, after this year, we don't anticipate any further staff furlough days or additional reduction in services."

 
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