Schakowsky Op-ed: Sequester hurts moms like Sharna

February 28, 2013

The Chicago Sun Times, February 27, 2013

By Rep. Jan Schakowsky

The word "sequester" remains a mystery to most Americans, but the impact of $85 billion in automatic spending cuts could change people's lives, like those of Sharna Ivy and her 4-year-old son, Ethan.

Every morning at 6 a.m., Sharna wakes up Ethan to get ready for school. Ethan has to be at the Mary Crane Center in Chicago's East Garfield Park neighborhood promptly at 7 a.m., and Sharna does not want her son to miss a minute of a lesson.

Sharna, a home caregiver, quickly drops Ethan off and runs to her clients' homes, which tend to be very far away. She works for four hours and then rushes to get back by 3:30 p.m. to pick Ethan up from school.

Sharna is a hardworking, single mother trying to give her child the best education possible, and at the same time she is the only financial provider. Sharna enrolled Ethan at the Mary Crane Center at just 5 months old because the school offered child-care services during the day, which allowed Sharna to work. Ethan is thriving because the Mary Crane Center provides quality education in a safe environment and promotes early childhood development. All of this is made possible with funding from Head Start, but drastic cuts mean the center might not be able to support moms like Sharna.

In the last few years, President Barack Obama has already signed into law more than $1.4 trillion in spending cuts (and only $600 billion in tax increases). If the sequester kicks in, it will cut bone – not fat – from vital programs that support communities, veterans, senior citizens and working families.

With the sequester, 2,700 children in Illinois alone are likely to lose access to early education programs. Children who attend these programs are more likely to stay in school, find good jobs and succeed in their careers. Many essential services are also on the chopping block including:

• Violence against women grants: Illinois could lose up to $273,000 in funds that provide services to victims of domestic violence.

• Teachers and schools: Illinois will lose approximately $33.4 million in funding for primary and secondary education.

• Vaccines: Illinois children would not receive vaccines for diseases such as measles, mumps, tetanus, influenza and Hepatitis B due to reduced funding for vaccinations of about $357,000.

• Military readiness: In Illinois, approximately 14,000 civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed.

• Job search assistance for employment and training: Illinois will lose about $1.4 million in funding for job search assistance and placement.

These programs are essential to middle-class families and a recovering economy. If Congress can't act, the sequester will cut deep into the bone of hardworking families.

So today, I call on my Republican colleagues to stop threatening mothers, like Sharna, with irresponsible budget cuts that will eliminate the programs that working mothers and middle-class families rely on every day.