Looming sequester threatens California services


In 26 years as the chief executive officer of Meals On Wheels West, RoseMary Regalbuto has never had to turn away a client. But things could change this year as across-the-board federal spending cuts are set to take effect Friday.

Besides the estimated $5.4-million cut to Nutrition Assistance Program for Seniors, a White House report predicts Head Start Services would be eliminated for about 8,200 California kids. Public health programs would lose about $2.6 million earmarked to fight infectious diseases.

Chris Hoene, executive director of the California Budget Project, says sequestration could also mean up to 16,000 kids might not get vaccinations. He also forecasts big cuts to substance abuse programs and AIDS testing.

Hoene says California may start to feel the cuts starting April 1 and it could make it harder for Southern Californians still struggling to recover from the recession.

"We need to be very clear that the cuts that we're talking about as part of sequestration are real," said Hoene. "It's sort of unbelievable that there's any conversation out there as if those sort of impacts aren't going to be felt or aren't going to be real."

Regalbuto says not being to feed homebound seniors will also have a devastating effect.

"It's going to be a strain on the hospitals, the nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, the board and care," said Regalbuto. "All of those facilities are going to have to help these people that will not have us as a resource."

Regalbuto says she's faced hard times before and doesn't expect this to be any different. She says she usually turns to private donations to help keep her meal deliveries going.

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