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Scare tactics or straight talk? The FL #s in the White House's state-by-state sequester-cut guide


The White House this evening started a well-planned offensive to let residents in every state know what the automatic budget cuts scheduled for March 1 could mean to them and their community.

In Florida, 31,000 civilian contractors with the defense department face furloughs and reduced pay; 7,450 children could go without some vaccines; thousands will get smaller unemployment checks and schools could face a small reduction, according to the White House.

In all, about $85 billion in spending nationwide is scheduled to be reduced as part of what's known as "the sequester." It's a roughly 2.4 percent reduction of the roughly $3.6 trillion in federal spending. (Florida's budget, for those keeping score, is about $70 billion this year).

The cuts, part of the ongoing wrangling in Washington over taxes and spending, is leftover from the 2011 debt-ceiling deal between the President, the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-controlled Senate.

So there's a lot of posturing and spin. Whenever government cuts spending, as Florida did at the bottom of the recession, advocates and government agencies present worst-case scenarios. And many fail to come to pass.

But there are also real consequences.

There's a growing chorus of voices who say that the economic recovery has been so slow because local-government employment is so low. Other say the economy would be worse if government taxed more to hire more.

Generally speaking, pulling money out of the economy right now, whether by tax increases or spending cuts, can make the slow economic recovery even more phlegmatic.

And Florida relies on loads of federal spending, especially when it comes to the military, Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. The latter two programs don't face cuts and Medicare faces a smaller reduction than others.

If the cuts go through, the first people who will feel a difference are those who receive unemployment checks. About March 7, the weekly checks of those getting about $300 now will be about $33 smaller. In Florida, the average weekly check is about $230. And about 800,000 are unemployed.

Ever dollar cut in unemployment benefits is a dollar that won't immediately go into the state's economy. Poor people spend all they earn. They less they get, the less they spend.

"People receiving Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits would see their benefits cut by nearly 11 percent," a White House document said. "Affected long-term unemployed individuals would lose an average of more than $450 in benefits that they and their families count on while they search for another job. Smaller unemployment checks will also have a negative impact on the economy as a whole. Economists have estimated that every dollar in unemployment benefits generates $2 in economic activity."

Some highlights from the White House report:

Nutrition Assistance for Seniors: Florida would lose approximately $3.8 million in funds that
provide meals for seniors.

Public Health: Florida will lose approximately $1.8 million in funds to help upgrade its ability to
respond to public health threats including infectious diseases, natural disasters, and biological,
chemical, nuclear, and radiological events. In addition, Florida will lose about $5 million in grants
to help prevent and treat substance abuse, resulting in around 4500 fewer admissions to substance
abuse programs. And the Florida State Department of Health will lose about $1.4 million resulting
in around 35,900 fewer HIV tests.

Nutrition Assistance for Seniors: Florida would lose approximately $3.8 million in funds that
provide meals for seniors.

Teachers and Schools: Florida will lose approximately $54.5 million in funding for primary and
secondary education, putting around 750 teacher and aide jobs at risk. In addition about 95,000
fewer students would be served and approximately 130 fewer schools would receive funding.

Military Readiness: In Florida, approximately 31,000 civilian Department of Defense employees
would be furloughed, reducing gross pay by around $183.2 million in total.

Job Search Assistance to Help those in Florida find Employment and Training: Florida will
lose about $2.3 million in funding for job search assistance, referral, and placement, meaning
around 78,960 fewer people will get the help and skills they need to find employment.

Vaccines for Children: In Florida around 7,450 fewer children will receive vaccines for diseases
such as measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza, and Hepatitis B due to
reduced funding for vaccinations of about $509,000.

Download Florida report