Looming Sequester Cuts to Hit Minn.'s Most Vulnerable

Updated: 02/25/2013 6:27 PM KSTP.com By: Mark Albert

Across-the-board federal budget cuts known as sequestration that are set to take effect Friday will impact dozens of Minnesota programs and thousands of the state's most vulnerable - the young and the old.

"It makes me mad, it makes me sad," said Alyce Dillon, executive director of Hennepin County's largest Head Start program, run by the Parents in Community Action Inc. (PICA), which has 2,500 children enrolled and another 1,000 on a waiting list.

"It makes me concerned that the youngest and poorest among us are going to have to take the hit," Dillon said in an interview Monday at Head Start's McKnight school in south Minneapolis.

In Hennepin county, the more than $1 million in reduced Head Start funding would mean 140 children, four classrooms, and 16 full-time jobs - most of them teachers - would be eliminated from the program, administrators said. Statewide, an estimated 700 Head Start children would be affected.

"This is about their future," Dillon explained. "And it's not only about the children's future and the future of the families, it's also about, quite frankly, the future of our community."

Cuts will also hit seniors in the Twin Cities.

Iris Wrubel, an 86 year-old widow living in a Brooklyn Park condo on a Social Security income, gets a fresh meal delivered daily through Meals on Wheels, a partially federally-funded program.

Sequester cuts would reduce money that goes towards 20,000 meals for 200 seniors in Hennepin county, organizations estimate.

"That's not good," Wrubel told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS after getting her meal delivered Monday. "A lot of people need these."

"Sometimes it's the only meal they get in a day," explained Patrick Rowan, executive director of Metro Meals on Wheels.

"It really is critical to keeping people healthy and in their homes."

Click here to read a White House estimate of how the sequester cuts will impact Minnesota - from fewer vaccines for children, to a cancelled Blue Angels air show in St. Cloud, to civilian military layoffs, and reduced job training.