By Tom Brune with Laura Figueroa New York Newsday
WASHINGTON — A total of $3 billion in hard-won federal funding for superstorm Sandy aid and $27 million for the 9/11 Zadroga health fund will be cut unless Congress acts to avoid automatic spending reductions by Friday, the White House and lawmakers said Sunday.
Those cuts would be in addition to $275 million in reductions to federal spending on military bases and civilian Department of Defense employees, social services, education, public health and environmental protection in New York State.
The effect of the automatic cuts, known in Washington as sequestration, was outlined in a state-by-state accounting for the first time Sunday by the White House.
“This will have macroeconomic consequences, cost hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country, and jobs throughout the private sector,” White House economic adviser Jason Furman said. “This will have serious programmatic consequences for all 50 states.”
As the March 1 deadline for a resolution nears, the White House has released more detailed reports of what would happen if under the sequestration law enacted in 2011 the government must cut $85 billion in discretionary spending in the seven months remaining in this fiscal year.
Congressional Democrats and Republicans oppose the cuts, but remain far apart about how to resolve the issue and blame it on each other.
“Long Island’s economy will take a major hit if sequestration happens — including the Sandy aid we fought so hard to get — and it’s a hit we can avoid,” said Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington).
He called on Republicans to allow closing tax loopholes for the wealthy to raise $40 billion to lower the deficit.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said President Barack Obama should hold a summit to resolve the issue and stop trying to “score campaign points.”
“He needs to show more leadership,” King said.
If the deadline passes without an agreement from both sides, some cuts would take effect immediately, while others would be phased in over time. Congress could go back later and restore the funding, according to several lawmakers.
Under the sequester, the $51 billion Sandy Relief Act would be slashed by $3 billion through a 9 percent cut in its programs, said Danny Werfel, controller in the White House budget office.
“What you will see is a systematic reduction in all of the activities for Sandy relief that were funded. The $3 billion in reduction will be spread across a variety of different program areas,” he said.
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican, called for bipartisan cooperation. “Hurricane Sandy victims will be unable to rebuild their lives without the critical aid,” he said.
Suffolk Executive Steve Bellone a Democrat, agreed. “Those residents and businesses affected by Super Storm Sandy need and want to rebuild,” he wrote in a statement Sunday. “It is important to ensure that the original amount of approved funds are available to those affected. I urge both parties to come together and do what is right for all Americans.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund also would take a hit, losing $1 billion, but administration officials said there would be no immediate cuts to anyone receiving individual assistance.
The $4 billion 9/11 Zadroga Health and Compensation Act, enacted in 2011 to fund health monitoring and financial aid to sick Ground Zero workers, would be cut as well, with $17 million sliced from the Victims Compensation Fund and $10 million from the health fund through the end of September, said Glen Caplin, spokesman for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). “We must come together to prevent these devastating and indiscriminate cuts from going into effect that will do great harm to our economy and New York families, including Hurricane Sandy victims and 9/11 first responders,” Gillibrand said.
King said he and Gillibrand will try to pass legislation to exempt the Zadroga funds.
The White House list of $275 million in other cuts to New York State includes $108 million in reductions in operations at Army bases and $60.9 million from furloughs of 12,000 civilian Defense Department workers.
The furloughs would affect 190 people — and cut nearly $1.5 million — from the Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing at Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach, the Air Force said.
Other cuts would include nearly $80 million for primary and secondary education, programs for disabled children and Head Start.
Funding also would be cut for public health programs — including a $2.7 million cut from HIV testing — law enforcement and $12.9 million for environmental protection.
Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment in Farmingdale, said funding already is too low and “any more cuts and you’re risking public health and our economy.”