EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 5, 2013

N.H. child advocates on edge over budget cuts

By Doug Ireland

---- — 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.

If families lose the vouchers, they will end up homeless, according to Elissa Margolin, director of Housing Action NH.

She said there has already been a 20 percent increase in the number of homeless in New Hampshire since 2010.

For Family Promise of Greater Rockingham County, that’s going to mean a longer list for those waiting to find a place to stay through the organization’s homeless network that began in February, according to program director Victoria McKinney-Vareschi,

The child advocates also said 680 fewer children in the state will receive vaccines for diseases such as measles, mumps and rubella, and parents of up to 100 children losing child care subsidies.

The cuts also could mean there will be $2.2 million less in funding for about 30 teachers, aides and staff who help children with disabilities. New Hampshire would also receive $1 million less in funding for primary and secondary schools, putting teachers’ jobs at risk, the group said.

Local school superintendents said they are concerned how the cuts could affect their districts.

Salem school Superintendent Michael Delahanty and Londonderry Superintendent Nathan Greenberg said they are waiting to hear how much federal aid they would lose. Among the federal programs affected are the Title I reading program, they said.

Delahanty said his district happened to save $45,000 by making an interest payment on a school renovation loan before the deadline. But he’s still worried about what could happen in the future.

“It would greatly impact how we operate the district,” he said. “I’m very anxious to have this resolved.”