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Public Notices

April 23, 2014

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Impact Of Federal Sequester Has Trickle-Down Effect Locally

Sun photo by O.J. Early

Crews at the Andrew Johnson National Historic site have fought two battles this summer to keep the national cemetery in pristine condition: excess rain and the effects of the federal sequestration.

Originally published: 2013-07-12 23:16:14
Last modified: 2013-07-12 23:20:29
 


Additional Images

BY O.J. EARLY

STAFF WRITER

Grass has been a little higher than normal at the Andrew Johnson National Cemetery this summer, partly a result of extra rain.

But that's not the only reason.

The national site atop Monument Hill was directly affected by the sequestration-related federal budget cuts now in place for more than three months, said Lizzie Watts, Andrew Johnson National Historic Site Superintendent.

"We still honestly haven't figured out what we'll do going forward," Watts said Wednesday.

Congress in mid-March approved a six-month budget plan that included the so-called sequestration -- ongoing cuts of $85 billion through the end of this year. Automatic spending cuts in excess of $1 trillion will go into effect over the next decade.

The sequestration-related reductions have meant three things for the presidential site:

* mowing at the cemetery started later;

* the cemetery received less general maintenance, and

* an administrative spot left vacant in early 2013 was never filled.

A seasonal employee wasn't hired to work on the grounds this year either, although that has happened in years past, Watts said.

"Staffing being down has been a challenge," Watts said. "Our staff has banded together, and I couldn't be more proud."

The budget-slicing impact has so far been felt strongest among federal programs and entities, like the local historic site, and not in state and local government, according to the Associated Press.

The sequestration's long-term effects likely won't be fully known for months, maybe years, the AP has reported.

"From a sequestration standpoint, we haven't relied on a whole lot of federal funds for us," said Todd Smith, Greeneville city administer. "So the impact on us is relatively minimal."

The same is true for Greene County, Mayor Alan Broyles said.

"The sequester hadn't really hit our local government hard," the mayor said Thursday. "A few grants may have been cut, but nothing like what some departments have seen."

Still, some federal and state offices are running slower-than-normal, according to Politico, a news website.

"We have seen a cut in working hours for federal employees that directly relates to how long it takes for paperwork to be completed, projects to be completed," a county resident said Thursday.

The source spoke on the condition of anonymity because of a spouse's work with the federal government.

"Offices are running on fewer hours, which means it takes longer than usual to receive services," the citizen said. "Passport processing is a good example."

SOCIAL SECURITY OK

To be sure, the sequestration hasn't had a major impact on all state and local services.

Local Social Security checks, for example, will still be mailed on time this year, Rodney Royston, administrator of the local Social Security office, said this week.

Royston said he could not comment, however, about sequestration or if budget cuts would impact the timing of when checks are mailed.

An ABC News-Washington Post poll in May reported only 37 percent of Americans had been personally affected by the budget slicing.

Fifty-six percent of U.S. citizens said they disapproved of the cuts, according to the same poll.

The impact of sequestration-related cuts have been felt strongest among the poor, elderly and sick, the AP reported.

 
For more information and stories, see The Greeneville Sun.

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