STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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This special reporting project wrapped up in May 2017. Read more.

Countdown to shutdown for kids programs

F. Tronchin

Lots of people are talking about how if Congress fails to reach a bipartisan budget agreement by the start of the New Year, $1.2 trillion worth of automatic spending cuts will go into effect.

Call it the 'fiscal cliff' or sequestration, these cuts could make tight budgets for low-income families even tighter. 

The cuts will be to federal programs, but the effects will be felt at the local level. A new report by the Michigan League for Public Policy shows just how big of an impact sequestration will have on kids and families right here in Michigan.

Two of the programs facing the biggest budget cuts are Head Start – early childhood education for low-income families with children under age five and Title I – funds for schools in poor areas.

After sequestration, local Head Start and Title I programs will lose $22.6 million and $45.5 million, respectively. These cuts would impact more than 50,000 Michigan children and could cost the state thousands of jobs. Cervical cancer screenings, WIC, and child care programs are also at risk of having their budgets slashed. 

Congress only has 74 days to strike a deal.

All hope is not lost, though. If Congress is unable to reach a long-term solution, a short-term plan may be implemented to fund government programs, and the families and kids that rely on them.

So far, no agreement – long-term or short-term – has been reached. Congress hasn't even drafted a complete proposal.

Of course, since it's such a political issue, it's unlikely an agreement will be reached before the presidential election. 

Last week, First Focus and Save the Children released America’s report card for 2012, giving the nation a C-minus in early childhood investment. That was with funding at current levels. If budgets are cut, it’s likely that grade will continue to fall.

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