This just in. The King County Housing Authority in Seattle has announced that it will stop issuing housing vouchers under a federal program that benefits "elderly or disabled households, veterans, and families with children."
You didn't know there was a King County Housing Authority? Get ready - maybe - to learn about a lot of obscure government agencies in various and sundry locales as the sequester shoes start to drop ..... if they drop.
The big question that everyone has as the clock strikes midnight and the sequester begins is: So what? The sequester is supposed to cut $85 billion off federal spending of around $3.5 trillion a year. If we were talking about a household, we'd be talking what you pay Time Warner for your cable TV, internet and phone bundle. Maybe with HBO thrown in.
Except that instead of being able to disconnect Time Warner, and just use your cell phone, poach your neighbor's wi-fi, and get Hulu, the sequester makes it an across the board cut, with several exceptions. You'd have to cut some on clothing, some on the light bill, some on the Slim Jims that you like to buy on the way home from work, etc. Even some of the money you drop into the box Sunday. Across-the-board is not a particularly sophisticated way to cut, but there it is.
So the federal government is putting the word out to all its agencies to cut, and some of those cuts will be in Washington, but some of the cuts will be in the field operations of the federal government, and some of them will be in grants that the feds make to state and local governments and universities and payments to federal contractors.
One of the big questions, for example, is how soon civilian employees who work at bases like Ft. Bragg will have to take a furlough day off without pay each week. We keep hearing it will happen, but how soon is hard to say. It may be that President Obama and Congress will reach some kind of deal in the next few weeks before the furloughs go into effect.
But there will probably be a lot of agencies at all levels of government, non-profits and contractors who will start making cuts right away.
I was curious about the King County Housing Authority, so I went to the Seattle Times web site, where I found a story about this decision, news of which moved across the country courtesy of the Associated Press. Here is an excerpt:
"The King County Housing Authority announced Thursday that it will stop re-issuing rental assistance vouchers that are turned in by people who no longer need them. Normally, those vouchers would then go to people on a waiting list.
Authority spokeswoman Rhonda Rosenberg says that about 45-50 vouchers are re-issued to new people in their Section 8 House Choice program every month.
Rosenberg says that if the so-called budget sequestration lasts a year, it will cost King County about $6.3 million in housing assistant money."
Normally, the decision of a housing authority in the Pacific Northwest would not be national news. Then again, we normally don't care about what's going on in Dixville Notch, N.H., except every four years on election day when they vote at midnight, all 10 of them, and the tally rockets through the global media. So fame comes to them what seize their opportunities. King County Housing Authority, enjoy your moment in the glum.
Here is one prediction. On Monday morning, editors like me will come to the office and all pose the same question: Can we find any King County Housing Authorities? Any federal employees getting furlough notices, any programs being cancelled, any parks being closed, any delays at the airport?
We've been getting some different messages on this. One is that the sequester's coming and things are going to be bad. The other is that the sequester's coming but the impact may not be really felt until April.
At any rate, I'm weary of Washington, the place where absolutely nothing of substance gets done, and tired of the sequester and it doesn't even officially start until later on tonight, when the president throws out the first memo. And then we start the long march through a long March.
And, by the way, you could also try Netflix.