Where you'll feel forced spending cuts

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    Bracing for big spending cuts

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Story highlights

  • The National Park Service would lose $110 million from its annual budget
  • Fewer TSA employees manning busy airports could increase security wait
  • About 70,000 children could be kicked out of Head Start
  • Primary and preventive care could be closed off to hundreds of thousands of Americans

Most Americans will feel the impact of forced budget cuts when their lives intersect with government -- trying to get through airport security to make a flight, visiting a national park, or using federal programs or assistance.

Congress can avert the automatic cuts, called sequester, if it compromises on a deficit-reduction plan before the March 1 deadline.

But time is running out.

No deal would set in motion some $85 billion in spending reductions that would be phased in through the end of the fiscal year, September 30.

Talk Back: Who's to blame for forced spending cuts?

Both the House and Senate are on their President's Day break and will have four days to negotiate when they return next week.

Congress extended the deadline for action at the start of the year when Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell agreed to defer the cuts for two months.

    Here's where most Americans will feel their impact if sequester takes effect:

    National parks

    Expect closed gates at some national parks as the National Park Service would lose $110 million from its annual budget. This could also lead to shorter hours, fewer employees, and possible closure of camping and hiking spaces. Even the most popular national parks, such as Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, wouldn't be spared.

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    By the Numbers: Automatic spending cuts

    Airport security and air traffic

    Proposed cuts to the Transportation Security Administration could mean trouble for air travel. The wait at airport security checkpoints could increase by at least an hour due to furloughed TSA screeners, who check passengers and cargo for bombs, guns and other prohibited items. It could take longer to get through customs as well.

    The Federal Aviation Administration manages air traffic at more than 400 commercial airports and cuts raise the possibility of flight delays, especially at crowded airports. The agency has preemptively warned its 47,000 workers of furloughs for one day every two weeks through September. Like the TSA, any furloughs would begin in late April or early May, the start of the busy summer travel season.

    Budget cuts will mean more time at the airport


    The Department of Education budget would also be trimmed. Proposed spending cuts would do the most damage to educational programs that heavily serve low income families. About 70,000 children could be forced out of Head Start, which promotes school readiness for children from birth to age 5. Further cuts to the education budget would also mean less money for schools and districts nationwide.

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    The real impact of automatic spending cuts and why they may happen after all

    Public Health

    While Medicare and Medicaid will be protected, primary and preventive care, like flu vaccinations, could be closed off to hundreds of thousands of Americans. Cuts to mental health funding will leave over 350,000 Americans untreated.

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    Food and workplace safety is also in danger. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which ensures safe workplaces and investigates accidents on the job would lose about 1,200 inspections, diminishing its oversight. The forced cuts could also affect food safety -- there could be up to 2,100 fewer food inspections if the cuts are implemented. This could lead to a shortage of meat in our markets, as the sale of unchecked meat is prohibited.

    Blind budget cuts, explained with a tomato

    Crime and justice

    Federal prosecutors will have to close some cases if cuts are imposed. Federal courts will see a quarter of their employees furloughed and jury trials could be suspended because there will be no money to pay juries.

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    The Department of Homeland Security could lose up to 5,000 agents at the border and the Pentagon would furlough thousands of defense workers. According to FBI Director Robert Mueller, the FBI would lose 2,285 employees.

    Federal worker furloughs could start in April

    Unemployment benefits

    Long term unemployed also stand to lose big. Under the proposed spending cuts, benefits are expected to decrease by 10% or, on average, $400 a month. This cut will affect 3.8 million Americans, who use these benefits to pay for food and housing while trying to find jobs in a damaged economy. The proposed cuts will also limit resources at job finding centers, a move the could heavily damage the livelihood of those who are already struggling.

    Unemployed would lose benefits if federal budget cuts go through

        Forced Budget Cuts

      • United States Marines are being told to preserve ammunition and gasoline as a deal softening the impact of automatic spending cuts continues to elude leaders in Washington.
      • The political bickering over the automatic spending cuts has done little but cloud the public's understanding of what's going on and why. So we'll try to set the record straight on at least a few oft-repeated misconceptions.
      • sequester impact acosta pkg_00001719.jpg

        We've had enough of the Beltway's wacky terms. Using fancy-pants words to dramatize and complicate otherwise simple concepts is becoming a habit of lawmakers.
      • Here we go: A new round of confrontation between the White House and Congress over the federal budget is in the offing, this time in a new attempt to avert the looming "sequestration" process.
      • Most Americans will feel the impact of forced budget cuts when their lives intersect with government -- trying to get through airport security to make a flight, visiting a national park, or using federal programs or assistance.
      • WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 12: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech before a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol February 12, 2013 in Washington, DC. Facing a divided Congress, Obama concentrated his speech on new initiatives designed to stimulate the U.S. economy and said, 'It's not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth'. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

        Forced budget cuts aren't the only fiscal headache facing Congress. On March 27, the so-called continuing resolution that funds federal programs runs out and the government could shut down.
      • Two days after a Federal Aviation Administration official told contractors that steps were being taken to shut down 168 air traffic control towers on April 1, the agency gave the towers an unexpected reprieve Friday, saying the official's comments were "unauthorized."
      • The US Capitol dome and it's reflection are seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on December 29, 2012. As the fiscal cliff deadline looms, Congress and the White House have still not reached a compromise. If no deal is struck by December 31 at midnight, taxes will automatically go up on both high earners and the middle class, and across-the-board spending cuts will go into effect. AFP PHOTO/Karen BLEIER (Photo credit should read KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

        From military training to educational grants to border patrols to hurricane relief, federal agencies face $85 billion in automatic, government-wide spending cuts this year.
      • The sequester would touch many, many government programs and services. These 57 are a somewhat random sampling of what could happen.