How the Sequester Might Ruin Your Summer – and Then Some

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The sequester – $85 billion in federal budget cuts – went into effect March 1. If you’ve been following the news and thinking it will only affect federal employees facing a furlough, you may be wrong.

The cuts could eventually affect lots of things – including your summer vacation.

In the video below, Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson offers a list of delays, annoyances, and other sequester-related problems you could be facing this summer. Check it out, then read on for more surprises.

There’s no way to know with certainty the exact effects budget cuts will have. And the sequester is highly politicized, so there’s likely exaggeration on both sides. For example, in this Huffington Post article, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) expresses his skepticism:

“It is a terrible way to cut spending, but not to cut 2.5 percent over the total budget over a year when it is twice the size it was 10 years ago? Give me a break,” Coburn said. “We see all these claims about what a tragedy it’s going to be.”

So depending on who you want to believe, the sequester may or may not be a big deal. Here’s a list of potential problems: As the summer progresses, we’ll see if they come to pass.

1. Fewer and more expensive flights?

Reuters says the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration will lose $627 million, which will result in sending furlough notices to most employees, including air traffic controllers. They’re also in the midst of a hiring freeze and have lost overtime funding. Fewer controllers means fewer flights. The law of supply and demand would suggest that fewer flights could lead to higher prices.

If you plan on flying this summer, get to the airport early – very early. The cuts will result in fewer TSA agents, which could mean longer lines at security checkpoints.

Smaller airports could be doing without air traffic controllers entirely. The Washington Post reported the Garden City Regional Airport in Kansas lost its air traffic controllers, leaving the pilots to manage flights on their own.

2. Slow tax refunds?

If you were planning on using your tax refund to fund your summer vacation, you may have to wait a bit. According to Market Watch, Internal Revenue Service employees are facing five to seven unpaid days off. Considering the IRS already has 5,000 fewer employees than it did two years ago, refund delays could be a possibility. However, ABC disagrees. In this article, they say refunds won’t be delayed.

With fewer employees and furloughs, however, there won’t be as many people available to man the phones and field your tax questions.

3. Delays at national parks

According to NPR, the National Park Service will slash $134 million from its budget. The cuts have already led to delays in park openings.

Reuters says most of the entrances to Yellowstone National Park will stay closed for two weeks longer than usual after the park cut $1.75 million from its budget and couldn’t afford the snowplows needed to open the roads.

If you’re planning on vacationing in a national park this summer, expect shorter hours, fewer open restrooms, less-tidy public spaces, and fewer park rangers.

4. Fewer work-study programs

If you planned on paying for school with a work-study program or federal aid, you might have to spend part of your summer vacation finding funding.

The sequester will prevent thousands of students around the country from receiving low-income federal aid, as well as decrease the overall availability for work-study opportunities. The state facing the hardest blow is California, which will cut about 9,600 students from receiving aid and prevent approximately 3,690 possible students from entering work-study programs, according to this chart from The Washington Post. Other states hit hard include New York, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Ohio.

5. Riskier food?

CBS News reports sequestration cuts at the Food and Drug Administration will result in 2,100 less food inspectors. In addition, a law requiring the agency to up inspections at farms and food processing plants may be delayed.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg had this to say to the Associated Press:

“We’re going to be struggling with how to really grapple with the cuts of sequestration … clearly we will be able to provide less of the oversight functions and we won’t be able to broaden our reach to new facilities either, so inevitably that increases risk.”

6. Riskier waters

According to the Associated Press, budget cuts will mean the Coast Guard will spend less time patrolling.

While emergency cases will still be a priority, this might not be good news if you plan to spend your summer boating, although it could be good news if you plan on spending it smuggling drugs or people into the United States.

7. Less disaster assistance?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) could lose hundreds of millions in funding. Some estimates, like this one from the Washington Post, peg the total at nearly $900 million, including $580 million in disaster relief.

So if your summer includes a tornado, flood or hurricane, you could have longer wait times for disaster relief.

8. A possible recession relapse

With less federal spending and thousands of furloughed employees making less income and pumping less money back into the economy, the likelihood of a recession increases dramatically. Should that occur, the effects could be felt long after summer has faded.

Truth or Exaggeration?

Whether all, or any, of these sequester-related hassles come to pass will continue to be a matter of debate. Time will tell.

In the meantime, what do you think? Is the sequester going to cause real problems like those above, or do you welcome the cuts and think the warnings are nothing but political posturing? Sound off below or on our Facebook page.

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