Budget cuts could hurt education and public health programs - WLTZ 38 | Columbus Georgia Regional News & Community

Budget cuts could hurt education and public health programs

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By Sara Belsole

COLUMBUS, GA -   Time is ticking on the sequestration clock and if time runs out on Friday, everyone will be affected, from preschoolers to senior citizens.

Georgia could see $85 billion worth of cuts across the board, which would devastate programs like Enrichment Services.

"We provide a variety of services in order to stabilize families and push towards self-sufficiency," Belva Dorsey, CEO of Enrichment Services, says.

That includes energy assistance, nurse aid training courses, meals for seniors and the Early Headstart and Headstart Programs, all which would get hit hard by budget cuts.

Spots in Headstart are already limited and hard to get. Right now, there are 1,005 spots in Early Head Start and Head Start for children ages 6 weeks to five years old. If sequestration does happen, that would mean a more than 5% cut, taking away 100 of those spots.

"As a one income family, it's extremely hard to get the quality education that your child gets at the Headstart Program," Deborah Paris, who has a five-year-old son in Headstart, says.

Enrichment Services also delivers meals to about 100 seniors everyday.

"We would have to look at possibly reducing the number of seniors we are serving," Dorsey says.

Another department that stands to lose big bucks in sequestration is the Public Health Department. Georgia public health could lose $286,000 of vaccination funding, resulting in more than 4,000 fewer children having access to important immunizations like measles and mumps.

"In the past, we were able to offer free or reduced-cost immunizations and the day of those free services would definitely be impacted," Pam Fair with the West Central Health District says.

Family planning, teen education and HIV testing would also be affected. The $4 million cut in public health funding would result in more than 14,000 fewer HIV tests in the state.

"Our ability to go out into the community will be impacted to work with individuals to help them know their status," Fair says.

Enrichment Services has a program called Tools for Success, where families can sponsor a Headstart child by providing school supplies before the school year. For more information, log onto www.enrichmentservices.org.


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