Some frequently asked questions about sequestration:
Q: Will civilian insurance for furloughed Wright-Patterson Air Force Base employees be affected?
A: Col. Cassie B. Barlow, commander of the 88th Air Base Wing headquarters at Wright-Patterson, said civilian insurance that is part of the federal government will not be affected. “That will still come out of paychecks and those premiums and everything will be paid like they were before, so there should be no effect.”
Q: If furloughs occur, how will it impact leave accumulation, time in service, and alternate work schedules for (Department of Defense) civilian employees?
A: All of those things will continue to accrue as normal, according to DOD.
Q: Summer is coming and many people are planning trips to national parks, will those be impacted by sequester?
A: Visiting hours at all 398 national parks are likely to be cut. Thousands of seasonal workers looking for jobs would not be hired, according to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Salazar and National Park Service director Jon Jarvis said visitors would encounter locked restrooms, fewer rangers, etc.
Q: Will Medicare be impacted?
A: Hospitals, doctors and other Medicare providers will see a 2 percent cut in government reimbursements because once cutback takes effect, Medicare will reimburse them at 98 cents on the dollar. Automatic cuts taking effect Friday would reduce Medicare spending by about $100 billion over a decade.
Q: What will be the impact on retirees who use support services such as base hospital, commissary, exchange, theater, bowling alley, etc?
A: There will be a lot of those that are non-appropriated fund facilities - the money doesn’t come from Congress - so they should continue to operate as they do right now. But certainly there will be some effect, at Wright-Patterson, Barlow said. “For instance, if we have less employees working in the hospital then what we’re going to have to is we’re going to have to send people downtown (to other hospitals) for appointments and those types of things.
Q: Could sequestration have any impact on grocery prices?
A: There is not a solid answer to this, yet. However, an estimated 2,100 fewer food safety inspections are expected and there could be increased risks to consumers because of the cuts. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg says most of the effects wouldn’t be felt for a while, and the agency won’t have to furlough workers.
Q: Will sequestration cause delays at airports?
A: The nation’s busiest airports could be forced to close some of their runways, causing widespread flight delays and cancellations. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood predicts flights to cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco could have delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours because fewer controllers will be on duty. Furloughs of controllers won’t kick in until April because the Federal Aviation Administration is required by law to give its employees advance notice. In addition to furloughs, the FAA is planning to eliminate midnight shifts for air traffic controllers at 60 airport towers, close over 100 control towers at smaller airports and reduce preventative maintenance of equipment.
Q: How many government workers, not just in Defense jobs could be furloughed?
A: More than half of the nation’s 2.1 million government workers may be required to take furloughs if agencies are forced to trim budgets. At the Pentagon alone that could mean 800,000 civilian workers would be off for 22 days each, spread across more than five months — and lose 20 percent of their pay over that period. Other federal agencies are likely to furlough several hundred thousand more workers.
Q: What’s the impact on education, especially Head Start?
A: Some 70,000 students enrolled in pre-kindergarten Head Start would be cut from the program and 14,000 teachers would lose their jobs. For students with special needs, the cuts would eliminate some 7,200 teachers and aides.
Q: Could student loans be impacted by sequestration?
A: The Education Department is warning that the cuts will impact up to 29 million student loan borrowers and that some lenders may have to lay off staff or even close. Some of the 15 million college students who receive grants or work-study assignments at some 6,000 colleges would also see changes.
A: The IRS says the cuts shouldn’t delay tax refunds. Millions of taxpayers may not be able get responses from Internal Revenue Service call centers and taxpayer assistance centers. The cuts would delay IRS responses to taxpayer letters and force the agency to complete fewer tax return reviews, reducing its ability to detect and prevent fraud. The IRS says this could result in billions of dollars in lost revenue to the government, complicating deficit reduction efforts.