Northeast Ohio Agencies Brace for Federal Spending Cuts

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The Head Start program offers preschool for about 4,600 low-income kids in Cuyahoga County. Brian Gleisser of the Council for Economic Opportunities of Greater Cleveland, which runs Head Start in the county, describes an array of services that kids receive.

GLEISSER: “Not only are they being educated. They’re also being fed during the day. They are receiving health screenings, vision, hearing (and) dental screenings.”

If automatic federal spending cuts go through, Head Start may have to furlough or lay off teachers. And because the program has a strict student-teacher ratio, about 430 kids in the county would lose out.

But that number is just one estimate, put together by the Ohio Head Start Association. Gleisser admits he’s not really sure what’s going to happen, or what he’ll do in response.

GLEISSER: “The regional office and the national office of Head Start does not know what the cuts are going to be if there are going to be any cuts.”

It’s the same story at other federal offices in Northeast Ohio. Cleveland’s FBI office says it’s waiting for word from headquarters about whether employees will face layoffs or furloughs. The situation is similar at NASA Glenn.

The Defense Finance and Accounting Services has an office in Cleveland that handles payroll and retirement pay for the Navy. It will follow Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s plan to furlough civilian employees if automatic cuts go through.

DFAS spokesman Tom LaRock says starting in April, the work week of all 2,300 employees in Cleveland might be reduced to four days for 22 weeks.

LAROCK: “If we have to furlough and if we have to go the 22 weeks, you’re basically looking at, during that period, losing 20 percent of your income.”

I asked LaRock about the mood in the office. He said the threat of furloughs is putting a damper on morale.

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