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Sequester Arrives: ND Poised to Lose $25 Million

Friday, March 01, 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Stacie Fredenburg
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FARGO, N.D. – Some $85 billion in automatic spending cuts nationwide begin to take effect Friday as mandated under broad federal budget cuts known as sequestration.

The reductions will be rolled-out over the next seven months.

Tim Trithart, chief executive officer with the Community HealthCare Association of the Dakotas, says the association is in line to lose some federal funding, and in the end, that will most hurt those who can't afford it.

"Community Health Centers, they're not run to make a profit,” he says. "And every little bit of money that we make we end up putting towards our patients, which are low-income. So, this basically means you end up cutting staff or cutting the availability of services."

It's estimated that under the sequester, North Dakota will lose around $25 million in funding along with a number of public and private sector jobs in the aftermath.

Trithart calls the automatic cuts "penny-wise and pound foolish," noting that many are aimed at programs that pay dividends in the long run, like helping the poor get regular health care so issues can be treated before they become major health concerns.

"You can choose not to get the oil changed on your car for only so long before your transmission blows,” he says. "And that's sort of how I see Community Health Centers, is we're sort of that standard oil change that you need to make sure is accessible, because you'll end up paying for it one way or another. It's a lot cheaper to just take care of that routine maintenance whether it's your body or your car."

Another area that will lose out under sequestration is nutrition assistance for seniors in North Dakota, facing an expected cut of more than $200,000.

Brian Arett, executive director of Valley Senior Services in Fargo, says that will mean 50,000 fewer meals – meals that can help a senior citizen stay healthy and in his or her own house, versus a nursing home, which is vastly more expensive and taxpayer subsidized.

"So, by providing this $4 meal and a few other services,” he says, "we're able to help people stay where they want to be, but even more than that, save a tremendous amount of taxpayer dollars. So I just can't believe that that's the way that Congress wants to balance our budget, because it's not going to work."

Congress and President Barack Obama agreed on the sequester last fall, hoping to come up with a more fleshed-out plan on spending cuts before today's deadline. That never happened.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - ND

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