Federal Budget Cuts Hitting PA Programs Hard

SCRANTON — The federal budget cuts that went into effect on Friday will reportedly save the government $85 million this year, according to White House officials.

But those across the board cuts will also have a direct impact on programs, including some that help the neediest people in Lackawanna County.

Meet some of the littlest tykes at Scranton’s Head Start program on Cedar Avenue.

Children who come here to learn, to play, to grow, and get warm meals five days a week.

Head Start officials say pre-school kids and their families are here because they are at 100 percent poverty level, the poorest of the poor.

And if or when federal cuts force some Head Start centers to close, parents say, they don’t know what they’ll do.

“If I keep my child at home, then who will do the work, who will help me to support the rent and utilities?” asked Ksem Adhikari of Scranton.

“He socializes here with other kids. He’d be missing out on social skills, everything school does for them. He’s missing out on a lot,” said Eric Lissefeld of Scranton.

“If they can’t afford daycare, they’re going to have to stop working and stay home. It’s hard, it’s ,really hard,” said Cathy Shea of Scranton.

As of right now, Head Start programs across the country have been informed that on March 1 they need to cut their budgets by 5%.

Here in Pennsylvania, that means cutting back on sessions, closing down some of the state’s 22 centers, and reducing staff members.

“We’re going to have to at least close early this year and maybe open late next year and also close some centers, we’re going to lose enrollment of up to 70 children that are affected by this,” said Ann Lynady, Head Start Director.

Not only would about 70 families be affected by the budget cuts at Head Start, Career Link officials say hundreds of people looking for jobs, looking for job training, will also be affected.

“It’s going to be devastating for the people. You’re going to see unemployment numbers rise, I predict, and then you’ll see these people end up as long-term unemployed individuals,” said Virginia Turano, of Lackawanna County Workforce.

If Washington comes up with a plan to change the budget cuts, by the end of the month, in theory, not as many programs would be affected.

But both Head Start and Career Link officials say, they are still bracing for the worst.