More And More Americans Are Feeling The Impact Of Sequestration Cuts

A new poll for ABC by Langer Research Associates finds that nearly four in ten Americans say sequestration has hurt them personally, up from just a quarter in March. About half of those impacted say the harm has been “major.”

Those who have been impacted also report high levels of pessimism about the state of the economy overall. Just about a third say the economic recovery is under way, compared to two-thirds of those who haven’t been personally affected. This has led to a negative view of the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts: among those impacted, two-thirds strongly disapprove of them, including Republicans, conservatives, and Tea Party supporters. Overall, 56 percent of Americans disapprove of sequestration, with just 35 percent in favor.

But many of the effects of sequestration have yet to be fully felt, so pessimism may increase. Those looking to conduct business with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Office of Management and Budget (OMB), or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may run into obstacles as nearly all employees are forced to take a furlough day on Friday. About 115,000 workers in all, around 5 percent of the federal workforce, will be on an unpaid day off.

This will mean that those who need help on tax forms or requesting housing vouchers will have to wait until Monday. There will be no walk in services at HUD for homeowners, the homeless, or real estate developers. The EPA will have to delay non-emergency activities such as proving air pollution permits. While the IRS furloughs were instituted to contribute to $600 million it needs to save from its budget, they’ll likely cost the country money in the long run. Furloughing just 1,800 enforcement positions could mean losing $4.5 billion in revenue.

Those who head to national parks over the long holiday weekend will also come face to face with the impacts of sequestration. A report from the Democratic staff on the House Natural Resources Committee, who interviewed authorities at 23 parks in the National Park System, found that most will have to close facilities, delay openings, or reduce hours of operation to deal with sequestration cuts. Most will also have to offer less programming and will not be as clean. National parks generate economic activity and support jobs: Visitors to the parks spent about $30 billion in 2011, which supported more than 250,000 jobs and generated $9.34 billion in labor income.

These inconveniences, however, pale in comparison to some of the other effects sequestration is having on vulnerable communities. Low-income children have been kicked out of their Head Start programs and services are being reduced at schools near federal lands. Meals on Wheels providers are serving fewer elderly people. Domestic violence shelters may have to consider reducing services or closing doors.