Americans are bracing for the forced budget cuts that could kick in on March 1. Some of the hardest hit would be 2.1 million federal workers who could be spending up to 22 business days at home without pay on a furlough.
If no deal is reached, some $85 billion in spending reductions would be phased in through the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30. Here's where most Americans will feel the impact of the cuts.
Crime and justice. Federal prosecutors will have to close some cases if cuts are imposed. Federal courts will see a quarter of their employees furloughed and jury trials could be suspended because there will be no money to pay juries.
The FBI, border patrol and Pentagon. The Department of Homeland Security could lose up to 5,000 agents at the border and the Pentagon would furlough thousands of defense workers. According to FBI Director Robert Mueller, the FBI would lose 2,285 employees.
Public Health. While Medicare and Medicaid will be protected, primary and preventive care, like flu vaccinations, could be closed off to hundreds of thousands of Americans. Cuts to mental health funding will leave over 350,000 Americans untreated.
Meals on Wheels programs. More than 4 million home-bound and disabled seniors may have to go without supper this year because of cuts to Meals on Wheels programs. Just in Erie County, New York, it could mean 36,000 fewer meals will be delivered, according to the Meals On Wheels Association of America.
Airport security and air traffic. Proposed cuts to the Transportation Security Administration could mean the wait at airport security checkpoints could increase by at least an hour due to furloughed TSA screeners, who check passengers and cargo for bombs, guns and other prohibited items. It could take longer to get through customs as well. The Federal Aviation Administration manages air traffic at more than 400 commercial airports and cuts raise the possibility of flight delays, especially at crowded airports. The agency has preemptively warned its 47,000 workers of furloughs for one day every two weeks through September.
Education for young children. Some 70,000 children from lower income families will not be able to enroll for pre-schools and daycare centers run by Head Start programs this fall, thanks to at least $400 million in cuts.
Title I funds. Title I funds help educate students whose families live below the federal poverty line. These funds could be cut for more than 2,700 schools with 1.2 million impoverished students and could 10,000 teachers and aides at risk of losing their jobs, according to the White House.
Scientific research. The National Institutes of Health would need to delay research projects and wouldn’t be able to give as many awards, and the Food and Drug Administration will likely be forced to delay drug approvals with fewer resources. The National Science Foundation would also give 1,000 fewer research grants, which the White House estimates would impact up to 12,000 scientists and students.
Food and workplace safety. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which ensures safe workplaces and investigates accidents on the job would lose about 1,200 inspections, diminishing its oversight. The forced cuts could also affect food safety -- there could be up to 2,100 fewer food inspections if the cuts are implemented. This could lead to a shortage of meat in our markets, as the sale of unchecked meat is prohibited. There could be a shortage by as much as 2 billion pounds of meat, 3 billion pounds of chicken, 200 million pounds of eggs.
National Parks. Expect closed gates at some national parks like YellowStone and the Grand Canyon as the National Park Service would lose $110 million from its annual budget. This could also lead to shorter hours, fewer employees, and possible closure of camping and hiking spaces.
Unemployment benefits. Under the proposed spending cuts, benefits are expected to decrease by 10% or, on average, $400 a month. This cut will affect 3.8 million Americans, who use these benefits to pay for food and housing while trying to find jobs in a damaged economy. The proposed cuts will also limit resources at job finding centers.
Low-income housing. The Department of Housing and Urban Development would have less funding for vouchers that help low-income families pay for housing, which could impact 125,000 families, according to the White House. At the same time, cuts to homelessness programs could force 100,000 formerly homeless people back out on the street.
Hurricane Sandy victims. About $3 billion has been cut from a supplemental bill for Hurricane Sandy victims. The cut includes "crucial funding" for repair and recovery of some 10,000 homes and small businesses, said HUD Secretary Shaun Donavan last week.
Small business loans. Small Business Administration loans guarantees would be cut by approximately $900 million, potentially making it harder for small businesses to get loans.
Oil and gas permitting. Cuts to departments that complete environmental reviews, inspect operations and approve permits could mean longer waits to start oil and gas projects.
Veterans Services. The Department of Veterans Affairs is exempt from the sequestration, but other services like Department of Labor’s Veterans Transition Assistance Program would need to curtail operations.
Click here to read about the complete history of sequestration.