Federal preparedness funding faces major cuts

If automatic budget cuts are enacted, the federal grant program used to help states improve public health emergency preparedness could lose more than $48 million in funding in 2013, an almost eight percent drop.

The figures on Public Health Emergency Preparedness grants are included in a recently released report from Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). The report outlines the impact of automatic sequestered cuts on non-defense jobs and services, according to CIDRAP News.

The automatic sequestered cuts were part of a bipartisan bill passed in August that raised the national debt limit. The cuts were intended to push a fiscal super-committee to create an alternative deficit-reduction plan. The group failed, and now Congress must find a way to address $109 billion in cuts that are scheduled to begin in January.

The report's section on PHEP grants shows the possible sequester cuts for each state and U.S. territory and includes fiscal year 2012 funding. According to the report, North Carolina faces nearly $1.5 million in cuts and Colorado could see $760,000 in cuts to PHEP funding, CIDRAP News reports.

Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said the cuts would have a considerable impact on all parts of the federal budget, but he questioned the accuracy of Harkin's work. He said the Obama administration has yet to provide any concrete information for making such assumptions.

"For example, Congress does not know the amount of the across-the-board cut. As the Chairman's report states, it could be anywhere between 7.8 percent and 8.4 percent," Shelby said, CIDRAP News reports. "In real terms, that is a difference of $1 billion in labor/HHS program reductions."

Shelby said that the real impact will remain unknown for some time because it remains unclear which programs will be exempt. The more exemptions the higher the impact will be on those that are affected.