Our nation is facing an urgent challenge. If Congress does not reach a debt-reduction deal by January 1, 2013, sequestration automatically kicks in. “Sequestration” is an across-the-board cut to most federal programs, including significant cuts to K-12 and early education.

As the deadline for reaching an agreement on our nation’s financial direction looms, let’s take a look at how children might be affected by the decisions.

For Kentucky, the impact is huge. If Congress fails to extend current improvements in the earned income and child tax credits alone by the end of the year,183,209 working Kentucky families with 332,944  children will be adversely impacted.  Nationally, 3 million people will lose unemployment insurance benefits.

Some programs are protected from cuts, including SNAP, Medicaid, and school meals. Programs that will face cuts include: housing, WIC, child care, and job training. This is an area that requires policymakers to come together to reduce the deficit so we don’t pass down a legacy of debt to our children while also investing in vulnerable kids so they can be healthy, safe, and ready to become skilled workers in a 21st century economy.

Some in Congress are proposing protecting tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans at the expense of these programs even though the richest 5 percent of households in Kentucky have an average income 12 times as large as the bottom 20 percent. It’s fair to ask those making more than $250,000 a year (the top 2 percent) to pay more. Today many wealthy people pay less in taxes on a dollar of income than do families in the middle class. Ending the tax cuts for the top 2 percent would mean another $80 billion in revenues in 2013 alone.

Congress should reject cuts to programs that keep working  families out of poverty, just to pay for more tax breaks for the wealthy.  With Kentucky’s rising income inequality, our state can’t afford to have the deficit balanced on the back of its struggling families and children in those families.

Here’s how programs in Kentucky will be directly affected by automatic cuts in January:

Data from: http://www.harkin.senate.gov/documents/pdf/500ff3554f9ba.pdf

Program FY 12 Funding FY 13 Sequester Cut Impact
Head Start $125,903,734 $9,820,491 329 Head Start jobs lost and 1,579 fewer children served
Child Care and Development Block Grant $39,580,516 $3,087,280 1,445 fewer children receive child care subsidies
Maternal and Child Health Block Grant $11,131,291 $868,241 44,265 fewer women, children, and families served
Childhood Immunization Grants $1,838,000 $143,364 2,098 fewer children receive MMR, Tdap, flu and Hepatitis B vaccinations
Special Education Grants for Infants and families $5,615,768 $439,503 363 fewer infants and children served
WIA Youth State Grants $12,676,374 $890,663 258 fewer at-risk youth served