Sequester to impact CAC services; Tenn. lawmakers weigh in on cuts
"The sad thing is that we already have waiting lists for a lot of the programs that are going to have the impact," said CAC executive director Barbara Kelly. "So the waiting lists will get longer, the wait times will be longer."
"If it were not for this program, I really don't know where I would be, if at all," Robert Ward said.
KNOXVILLE (WATE) - $85 billion in automatic cuts to federal spending will kick in Friday unless the White House and Congress can agree on an 11th hour compromise.
For the first time in weeks, congressional leaders will be meeting with President Obama Friday in a last ditch effort to strike a deal. But for now, there's still no compromise.
The Community Action Committee operates more than 30 programs in Knoxville and Knox County, helping children, the elderly and others in need. About 70 percent of their annual budget, $25 million, comes from the federal government.
"I didn't have any place to go," said Robert Ward, who was once a contracts manager at ORNL.
Later in life he found himself homeless.
"I sort of wandered around on the street for a while," he said.
From there he ended up in a shelter, but now has his own apartment thanks to the help of his CAC case manager.
"If it were not for this program, I really don't know where I would be, if at all," he said.
The CAC oversees many programs from delivering mobile meals to the homebound to educating low-income preschoolers through Head Start to helping those who can't afford to pay their utility bills.
"The sad thing is that we already have waiting lists for a lot of the programs that are going to have the impact," said CAC executive director Barbara Kelly. "So the waiting lists will get longer, the wait times will be longer and the circumstances will worsen."
Kelly believes she'll have to cut $1.2 million from their operating budget between now and the end of September.
"We hope that it doesn't mean people layoffs, but it may well come to that," she said.
While Ward is grateful for the CAC's help getting back on his feet, he feels for others still in need.
"Good people, they have worked, they have donated, they've contributed themselves to this nation. It's hard. I hate to see that happen," he said.
Kelly said private donations to some of their programs have also fallen off recently due to the economy, so they're hoping to come up with some significant and creative fundraising ideas soon.
Tennessee lawmakers weighed in on the pending cuts
"We have the president running around the country offering scare tactics instead of meeting with congressional leaders and saying here's my plan, if you can come up with a better one, do it," said Sen. Lamar Alexander. "We agree that we shouldn't be cutting these funds in the way the sequester requires."
"I agree that it's ham-handed. The only thing worse than sequestration in my opinion would be kicking the can down the road on some much needed fiscal discipline here in Washington," said Sen. Bob Corker on the Senate floor.
"The sequester we are talking about now is minuscule when compared to our present debt and our future pension liabilities. Our choice is simple. We can cut now, or crash in the very near future," said Rep. Jimmy Duncan on the House floor on Wednesday.
President Obama is scheduled to meet Friday with members of both parties.