By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Sequestration officially took effect on federal programs on Friday, March 1. Now, the big question…how will this affect Cherokee and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians?
EBCI Finance Deputy Kimberly Peone summed up sequestration, “It’s trying to reduce the baseline of the federal government.” She said it involves an across-the-board 5.1 percent cut to federal programs.
The four main programs that will be affected locally include Indian Health Service, Head Start, Cherokee Department of Transportation, and the Cherokee Diabetes Program – all of which receive some federal funding.
Peone said the total cuts in Cherokee could be as high as $3.9 million, but she anticipates that gaming funds will offset any shortfalls in those programs.
“We’re in such a strong position cash wise,” she said. “We’re $11 million ahead of plan on the first four months (FY13 at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort). There will definitely be some tribal governments that are hit by this, but we should be fine. We have an enterprise that supports our tribal government.”
Peone did add, “As a citizen, I’m very worried about the impact this will have on our economy. This will probably cost thousands of jobs and could throw us into another recession.”
She said cuts on government contracts and possible layoffs and hiring freezes could have an adverse effect on the U.S. economy.
At the organization’s Impact Meeting in Washington in February, USET approved Res. No. 2013:025 which states in part, “Cherokee Central Schools, as well as other public schools, would be devastated by an estimated $2.7 billion loss from just three programs alone – Title I grants, IDEA, special education state grants and Head Start – that serve a combined 30.7 million children.”
Cherokee Central Schools superintendent Walter Swan said, “Sequestration would directly affect Cherokee Central Schools as we receive monies from several different sources of federal funding. Our school improvement dollars would be reduced. Our Special Needs programming and our teacher improvement dollars would all be affected by the proposed 5.1 percent cut to domestic program funding. In short, we would definitely be doing more with less funding.”
Swan continued, “Our School Board has taken great steps to let our legislative bodies know what effects these cuts would have on Cherokee Central Schools. They have traveled to Washington, DC on two different occasions to help represent our school and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.”