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April 5, 2013

N.H. child advocates on edge over budget cuts

The federal automatic budget cuts are expected to have a widespread impact on all sectors of society, including in New Hampshire.

The failure of Congress to reach agreement on the federal budget before the March 1 deadline meant millions of dollars in program cuts and job losses. Workers and public agency advocates have voiced their disapproval across the country.

But those who are too young to speak up are among those being affected the most — children, according to representatives for New Hampshire children’s organizations.

In the Granite State, thousands of children and their families will feel the impact of those cuts, the advocates said.

Representatives for the Children’s Alliance of New Hampshire, Every Child Matters in New Hampshire, the New Hampshire Head Start Association and Housing Action New Hampshire held a press conference yesterday to express their dissatisfaction with the cuts.

“These cuts will have very serious impacts on children and families in New Hampshire,” said Erika Argersinger, policy director for the Children’s Alliance of New Hampshire.

The child advocates asked the state’s congressional delegates to work with their colleagues to support an agreement for 2014 that reverses the budget cuts.

That would help protect valuable social service programs and prevent the federal government from shifting more budgetary responsibilities to states like New Hampshire, they said.

“All of these choices will cause a tremendous hardship for families,” said Jeanne Agri, president of the New Hampshire Head Start Association.

Head Start is a program that helps prepare young children for school. The cuts mean 100 fewer children will be able to enroll in Head Start and Early Head Start.

Some Head Start programs would have to close, but it’s not known how many, Agri said. Rockingham County has a Head Start program in Derry.

The federal cuts will also result in 1,400 children and mothers from New Hampshire losing nutrition assistance through the Women, Infants and Children program and 482 families losing housing vouchers, they said.

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