Federal cuts trickle down to county

Federal cuts caused by sequester have impacted Anoka County, especially in the human services division.

At midnight March 1, $85 billion in federal reductions started to go into effect for both defense and non-defense programs alike with some exceptions – Social Security payments, Veterans Administration, Medicare benefits, Medicaid benefits and Pell grants among them.

“The impact of the cuts are not totally clear yet in some program areas, but the impact will be felt most in social services and mental health programs,” said Don Ilse, county human services division director.

With the threat of sequester at the federal level looming for some time, county officials have been planning for the loss of federal funds, according to Ilse.

In the social services and mental health departments, the impact of the sequester cuts is $344,000, he said.

This will include children’s services, vulnerable adults services, adult mental health, chemical dependency, child care assistance and children’s mental health, Ilse said.

Generally, the federal cuts total 5.2 percent for these programs, according to Ilse.

They will affect contracts that the county has with agencies to provide the services, Ilse said.

“The adjustments in services are likely to occur at the beginning of April,” he said.

“There will be an impact on our clients, both children and adults.”

Nor are there county dollars available to mitigate the impact of the federal cuts, Ilse said.

Smaller pots of federal money go to other programs within the human services division, for example, the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program and employment services at the Anoka County Job Training Center, and these will be affected by sequester as well, he said.

The county also gets federal grants for many of its highway projects, but late last week Anoka County Highway Engineer Doug Fischer had not received word of any sequester cuts.

According to Fischer, the federal grants for 2013 county highway construction projects were authorized some time ago.

And neither the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) nor the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) have told the county to halt future projects that will be getting federal dollars – for example, the planned reconstruction projects on University Avenue and Foley Boulevard in 2014, Fischer said.

“We have seen no guidance as yet,” he said. “We have not seen or heard anything.”

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]