2013/02/28 — Jackson, MS Sequestration and its legion of government cuts are upon us, and they will be aimed disproportionately at African-Americans and Latinos in Mississippi and across the South.
Sequestration is a series of automatic, across-the-board cuts to government agencies that attempt to handle the growth of the U.S. national dept, which exploded during the 2007 recession. The resulting blanket spending cuts, going into effect in March, will hit unemployed or under-employed Americans the hardest —a segment of the population of which blacks and Hispanics disproportionally comprise.
Jobs & Unemployment Benefits Affected
African American unemployment in Mississippi is significantly higher than white unemployment, according to the Economic Policy Institute. In 2010, the average unemployment rate for African American Mississippians was 18-percent, while the average unemployment rate for white Mississippians was only 6.4. State unemployment benefits in Mississippi last up to 26 weeks. If you’re still unemployed by week 27, you would be out of luck if federal unemployment benefits did not kick in to protect you and your family. Eligible workers can collect federal benefits for up to 47 weeks. Those payments, which average $300 a week, will take a sequester cut, however, with recipients possibly losing an average of more than $400 in benefits each through the end of the federal fiscal year, according to the Department of Labor.
Additional information from the Department of Labor reveals that black workers are more likely to be employed in the public sector than whites. In 2011, nearly 20-percent of employed blacks worked for state, local, or federal government compared to 14.2-percent of whites. Government is the great equalizer when it comes to hiring and often strives for racial balance in the office, whereas the private sector routinely looks over resumes with ethnic names in favor of equally or less-qualified white applicants. Women, who are usually the primary care-giver in single-family homes, are also 50-percent more likely to hold government jobs.
Naturally, the sequester takes aim at government employers, and promises deep, bloody slashing of job-training programs and state and local jobs, including the health and education sector.
Childcare & Vaccinations Hit
Mississippi, in particular, will lose approximately $5,486,000 in funding for primary and secondary education, putting close to 80 teacher and aide jobs at risk. In addition, about 12,000 fewer students would be served and approximately 20 fewer schools would receive funding, according to a February report issued by the White House. Mississippi will lose approximately $6,124,000 in funds for about 70 teachers, aides, and staff who help children with disabilities.
To make matters worse, Head Start and Early Head Start services in the state—programs steered almost exclusively to the state’s poor—would be eliminated for 1,600 children. Joining those unlucky ranks would be up to 400 disadvantaged and vulnerable children who would lose access to child care, forcing many of their underemployed parents to quit their job in order to babysit.
The financial child-beatings continue with around 1,170 fewer children eligible to receive vaccines for diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza, and Hepatitis B due to sequestration snatching $80,000 in funding for vaccinations in Mississippi.
Add Education to the List
Don’t think college education to be any easier financially either, particularly for students who depend on financial aid. In the 2007-08 academic years, more than 80-percent of African Americans with a bachelor’s degree graduated with student debt, according to the Center for American Progress. Compare that to only 64-percent of white graduates. (You see where this is going, don’t you?) The White House report warns that the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program, which provides need-based grants to low-income undergraduate students, will take a $396,000 punch in Mississippi alone, killing student aid for 12,220 students. Vocational grants in the state, similarly, get a $2,519,000 cut, knocking almost 900 students out of vocational education services.
In an even more abrupt detour toward the realm of evil, the sequestration cuts advocated by Congress, would grab approximately $182,000 in funds that provide meals for seniors in Mississippi.
This is a stark contrast to sequestration’s impact on actual members of Congress, whose pay can’t be cut as part of the 2011 Budget Control Act. You see, the 27th Amendment to the Constitution prohibits Congress from changing its own pay until after the next election. The sequester portion of the 2011 Budget Control Act was scheduled to go into effect on January 2, 2013, the last day of the same Congress that approved it. In this way, Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-MS, can rag the president on conservative talk radio about “Obama’s” sequester while never once admitting that he signed the same bill, opposed compromise that could prevent it, and deftly voted to keep his own paycheck unaffected by it.
All three Republican Congressmen from Mississippi, in fact, approved the sequestration, as well as both of the state’s Republican senators. The only U.S. Representative of Mississippi who voted against the bill was Democrat Bennie Thompson.
It’s time to take your concerns to the men who made the sequestration possible.
Tell them the NAACP sent you.
Sen. Thad Cochran:
Phone: (202) 224-5054
Sen. Roger Wicker:
Phone: (202) 224-6253
Rep. Alan Nunnelee District 1
Phone: (202) 225-4306
Rep. Gregg Harper District 3
Phone: (202) 225-5031
Rep. Steven Palazzo District 4
Phone: (202) 225-5772
Source: NAACPMS Staff