Sequester's impact on state outlined

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WASHINGTON -- Civilian military personnel, low-income renters and AIDS patients getting housing assistance will be among some of the first Pennsylvanians to feel the impact of the federal government's $85 billion across-the-board budget cuts.

Leaders of the U.S. departments of Defense and Housing & Urban Development outlined some of those effects in separate letters Friday to Pennsylvania's Gov. Tom Corbett as well as counterparts in other states.

Civilian military personnel will be forced onto unpaid leave for 22 days between now and October, the end of the fiscal year, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter wrote. He acknowledged that anticipation of the furloughs already is adversely affecting morale and productivity among civilian employees, including Pennsylvania's 26,000. He said the effects will ripple through communities where civilian employees work because they'll spend less.

That is just one impact of the spending cuts -- known as the sequester -- that became effective Friday after Congress failed to agree on an alternative.

Mr. Carter said he could not yet provide a full list of defense cutbacks in Pennsylvania, but funding for Army depot operations at Letterkenny in Franklin County and Tobyhanna in Monroe County could be cut by as much as $751 million, about a third of their budgets. Another $7 million would be cut from Pennsylvania base operations including Carlisle Barracks and Fort Indiantown Gap.

In a separate letter, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said federal funding to several Pennsylvania housing programs would be cut by $37.5 million, reducing the state allocation to $720.5 million. The cut affects funding for affordable housing, community development, heating aid, special-needs housing, lead-poisoning protection, foreclosure prevention counseling, rental assistance and the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS grant program. Cuts to the Tenant Based Rental Assistance program alone will hit 4,343 Pennsylvania families.

State agencies have been preparing for the sequester since 2011, when lawmakers and the White House negotiated the concept into the Budget Control Act, state budget office spokesman Jay Pagni said. No state dollars will be allocated to replace the federal funding losses, he said, although in some cases, last fiscal year's surpluses may be available to ease the impact.

Mr. Pagni said agencies have been told to reduce either the volume of people served or the amount of help provided, depending on the program.

state

Bureau Chief Tracie Mauriello: 1-703-996-9292 or tmauriello@post-gazette.com.


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