March Madness

March Madness – the excitement of the best college basketball teams competing for the national championship spot.  As a University of Michigan alumna, I can’t help but get a little hopeful that the Wolverines might have some exciting success in this year’s tournament (particularly after a disappointing Big Ten Tournament run).  At the same time that sports fans across the country are filling out their brackets and placing their bets, Congress and the President are racing to another finish line – trying to find a way to continue to fund the remainder of the 2013 federal fiscal year.  And this, my friends, is true madness.

Before I get into the details of this madness, let me provide some context before we get into the nitty gritty.  We know that Michigan’s next workforce is set to be its most diverse yet.  In fact, I just read a statistic last week that 2011 was the first year in which more infants of color were born in the U.S. than White, non-Latino infants – perhaps this didn’t hold true for Michigan but we are moving in a similar trajectory.  The federal budget continues to be the single most powerful expression of the federal government’s priorities.  Thus, protecting the most challenged families and communities from devastating cuts should be the priority in any budget agreement.  And we know the impact of the sequester is devastating to Michigan children and families.

As you may recall, the infamous sequester was triggered on March 1st when Congress failed to reach an agreement on how to offset the across-the-board cuts to discretionary programs.  As our national affiliate, Voices for America’s Children put it, the deep budget cuts will disproportionately impact communities of color that are already struggling with not having enough resources.   Now, a new deadline is quickly approaching – Mach 27th – when the Continuing Resolution or C.R. that is currently funding the federal government expires.  Congress must agree to a budget for the remainder of the federal fiscal year, which goes through September 30, 2013.  This provides an opportunity to undo some of the harmful cuts of the sequester or do nothing at all to offset them.

The House has passed a budget that shifts around funding for military and defense – in essence, prioritizing certain programs and overriding the sequester’s across-the-board approach to cuts for those agencies – while maintaining the across-the-board cuts to education, health, and human services.  The Senate, on the other hand, offset some of the damaging cuts to the Child Care and Development Block Grant and Head Start – equity-promoting programs focused on families with young children.  While it is known that the entire sequester will not be reversed, offsetting deep cuts to these critical programs that serve the country’s and Michigan’s most challenged children – children of color and children from low-income families – is necessary to ensure the economy can continue to recover.  Now is the time for Michiganians to continue talking to our U.S. Representatives and urge them to adopt the Senate budget for the remainder of the 2013 federal fiscal year, which will better serve our struggling children and families.

Learn more about the federal budget and what it means for Michigan children and families on our website.

And Go Blue!

-Mina Hong