Sequester Could Impact Head Start Programs

February 27, 2013 Updated Feb 27, 2013 at 7:55 PM EDT

By WKBW Admin

February 27, 2013 Updated Feb 27, 2013 at 7:55 PM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) -The Community Action Organization of Erie County runs 44 Head Start programs in the county. It's also responsible for programs at local community centers and food pantries. CEO L. Nathan Hare says if the sequester is implemented, he might be forced to turn away 170 kids from the service. The program assists low income families and their children by providing education, nutrition, health, mental health, and social services.

"That's $1.7 million in cuts that we would incur just in our Head Start program," said Hare. "We're at a situation where 1 out of every 6 eligible kid is enlisted actually gets served because of our grant. So now we'll be at a situation where its 1 out of 7. That will restrict us."

Hare says he's trying to implement a secondary plan so the children can stay in the program, but other services would feel the pinch. The Community Action Organization's food pantries would be forced to reduce hours and 1 of its 4 community centers could shut down. The organization is currently responsible for all after-school and senior programs at those community centers. Three are in Buffalo and one is in Angola.

"We serve 35,000 people. That's a lot of people," added Hare. "It takes money to serve those people. We have to figure out a way to meet the needs of the community but it's going to be difficult."

$85 billion in federal spending cuts will automatically kick-in Friday unless the President and congress can reach a budget agreement to avoid the sequester.