EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

December 25, 2012

Poor would be hardest hit by plunge over 'fiscal cliff'

Evelyn Friedman

As the national march over the so-called :”fiscal cliff” advances, financial experts are issuing advice on how to lessen the individual tax liability. Even savvy agents for professional athletes are in on the game, negotiating year-end bonuses to reduce taxes. For example, Atlanta Braves outfielder B.J. Upton’s $75 million deal included a $3 million signing bonus due by Dec. 31, reported CNBC.

However, the fiscal cliff is more than tax increases. It is also a reduction in discretionary federal spending, up to 10 percent. That includes programs providing, among other things, assistance to our nation’s impoverished for home heating assistance, early childhood education and nutrition programs for women and children. The White House and Congress are in negotiations to avert this looming crisis and no one knows yet if they will succeed.

While the wealthy protect their riches, it is worth remembering the poor who rely on government assistance to eat and keep warm have precious little they can do to prepare to go over the cliff. At the Greater Lawrence Community Action Council, where I am the new executive director, we see families who struggle to survive and work their way out of poverty. We are witnesses to the importance of starting education before kindergarten, of good nutrition to the health of families and a warm home in our cold, harsh winters. For too many people in Greater Lawrence, the fiscal cliff means real human suffering.

The GLCAC provides a range of federally funded social services. Last year we assisted 29,000 individuals in Greater Lawrence. The impact of a Washington stalemate on the GLCAC will amount to about a $1.6 million budget reduction (about half of Mr. Upton’s year-end bonus) and cuts in services to more than 1,200 clients in Greater Lawrence.

We estimate the cuts in federal spending based on this 10 percent will slash $505,000 in home heating assistance funds and leave 763 people in the 10 communities we serve choosing between paying their fuel bill and buying other essentials.

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