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Wasserman Schultz says sequester hurting poor kids and seniors


U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, held a presser today at the National Council of La Raza in Miami to highlight how the sequester is hurting the poor in Florida.

"Because of these across the board cuts Florida is looking at losing 750 teachers," she said, and Head Start "will likely have to serve 1,200 fewer children across Florida." Wasserman Schultz mentionned that some Head Start programs have shut down -- she didn't immediately know whether that included any in Florida.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released data Monday showing that Head Start will be cut for about 57,000 children nationwide including about 1,200. Before the sequester took effect, the feds estimated that up to 70,000 children could lose access.

HHS has not yet answered specific questions as to whether this means 57,000 children have been kicked out or whether that refers to slots in the coming year. 

Wasserman Schultz didn't offer very many specific ideas about how to reduce the deficit to cancel the sequester other than ending tax loopholes for big corporations.

The sequester has led Broward Meals on Wheels to reduce meals by 500 a day, said Mark Adler, executive director of the agency. An interesting tidbit about the  Hispanic population in Broward: last year about 21 percent of Meals on Wheels clients were Hispanic, while this year it rose to 27 percent.

Earlier this year the Broward County Commission had agreed to cover sequester cuts for air traffic controllers at a small airport in Pembroke Pines though that ultimately wasn't necessary when the planned cut was reversed. Commissioners were concerned about safety in the heavily populated area.

Adler hasn't asked the mostly Democratic county commission to fund the $476,000 gap to feed poor seniors.

Wasserman Schultz said that it's not the local or state government's responsibility to replace federal dollars and Adler said that Broward County currently provides the required local match for the program.

Broward Vice Mayor Barbara Sharief said in an interview that the county commission hasn’t talked about backfilling the Meals on Wheels federal cut.

“We have lots of unfunded mandates from the state,” she said. “Having them from the federal level is getting to be too much.”