The federal budget sequestration—the $1 trillion in automatic budget cuts triggered when Congress failed to reach a budget deal earlier this year, has had an particularly harsh impact on the Latino community, local activist groups said at a press conference Wednesday.
The cuts have particularly affected the federal preschool program HeadStart and Meals on Wheels program, which provides free meals to seniors in need.
“Sequestration cuts don’t discriminate between programs that may have become bloated or ineffective, and those that that are a lifeline for individuals or a hand up for the next generation,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL 23rd District). “The sequester applies a machete where we should be using a scalpel, and the people who have been left wounded are our neighbors and South Florida’s children.”
While Latinos account for about 17 percent of the U.S. population, they make up one-third of students in HeadStart programs nationwide. The National Council of La Raza estimates that the sequestration cuts have impacted more than ninety-five thousand children in Florida.
Executive director Mark Adler said that Broward County's Meals on Wheels has scaled back the number of people it serves by five hundred seniors per day due to the loss of funding brought on by the sequestration.
“To put a face on it, here in Broward County we have 38 congregate meal sites, and we’ve had to reduce the number of meals we can serve at those sties by 35 percent. That means that, if 100 seniors come to a senior center to have lunch, 65 of them get a meal,” Adler said.
Adler said that, for the first time in its history, Broward County's Meals on Wheels has created a waiting list for those requesting meals.
Twenty-seven percent of the beneficiaries of Broward Meals on Wheels are Hispanic.