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Federal Budget Cuts Affect Children

On March 1, 2013, a set of across-the-board budget cuts to most federally funded programs, including some focused on maternal and child health, took effect. The cuts, known as sequestration, apply equally to defense and non-defense programs, and will devastate already fragile budgets for key pediatric programs at a time when 22% of U.S. children live in poverty.

Social Security, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, child nutrition programs, Supplemental Security Income, refundable tax credits such as the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax credit, veterans’ compensation and benefits, and federal retirement are exempt from sequestration. However, funding would be cut for many other programs important to children and pediatricians, both from discretionary (annually appropriated) and mandatory (entitlement) programs. If the cuts are enacted, funding levels are estimated to be about 8% below last year’s levels.
On the discretionary side, programs such as Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant, National Institutes of Health pediatric research, Section 317 Immunization Program and the Children’s Hospital Graduate Medical Education program will experience cuts. Mandatory programs affected by sequestration include the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visitation Program and the Prevention and Public Health Fund, among many others. Federal agencies and departments will have limited control over how the cuts will impact individual programs.
Congress has several options are on the table to consider as an alternative to sequestration, though given election politics and a truncated calendar before the cuts take effect, it is unclear if or how Congress will act to undo the cuts.

What the Academy is fighting for

The Academy, along with a diverse coalition of partner organizations, has led a charge in Washington for Congress to avoid sequestration and instead pursue a balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not disproportionately hurt children. As part of this advocacy push, the AAP has partnered with maternal and child health groups to collectively voice concern with the adverse effects of sequestration on vulnerable populations, worked with other public health organizations to draw attention to the damaging impacts sequestration will have on the health and well-being of children and families, and shared pediatricians’ concerns with Congress about how the scheduled funding cuts will hurt programs that promote and protect children’s health.

Academy members are encouraged to reach out to federal legislators and the media this month to share how budget cuts will affect pediatricians and the children they care for by using the following resources: