DeLauro says sequestration will impact towns, residents, economy

The effects of the federal sequestration will begin to make themselves felt in the coming months, and those effects could have a profound impact on quality of life in the region, according to U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District.

DeLauro hosted a meeting with community leaders from around her district Monday at Molto Bene in Ansonia. About 20 mayors and first selectmen, including Mark Lauretti of Shelton, attended to discuss the possible effects of the federal budget impasse on communities.

“The purpose of this meeting is to focus on what is happening as a result of the sequestration,” DeLauro said during a media session after the closed-door discussion with the community leaders.

Parts of Shelton are both in the 3rd District, represented by DeLauro of New Haven, and the 4th District, represented by Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Himes of Greenwich.

Will impact daily lives

Asked how she would explain to taxpayers the ways in which the sequestration would affect their daily lives, DeLauro said the effects of the situation would take months to manifest.

“We never assumed this was the cliff,” she said. “This will happen somewhat gradually, but there will be a profound effect.”

For example, DeLauro mentioned the regional airports, Tweed New Haven and Waterbury-Oxford. “If Tweed closes, that will affect the regional economy,” she said. “Also, we could have $2.5 billion cut from disaster relief funding, including the Army Corps of Engineers that are currently working to repair our communities from Hurricane Sandy and the blizzard.”

But the effects of sequestration go beyond the big picture, trickling down to individuals living in the community.

“It’s not just things like airports, it’s the people who work there. These are their jobs,” she said. “It’s not going to happen tomorrow, but it will happen.”

Deadlock is unsettling

Derby Mayor Tony Staffieri said the federal budget deadlock was unsettling to municipalities.

“We’re just beginning our budget process, and we just don’t know what the net result will be, especially considering the state is also thinking about eliminating the car tax, too,” Staffieri said. “Just that one thing, the car tax, could force towns to raise property taxes by 3 to 4 mills.”

Staffieri said the domino effect of potential government employee layoffs was what worried him most.

“It’s not just the teacher or the custodian getting laid off,” he said. “It affects the entire local economy. When they aren’t working they don’t go shop downtown or stop at the luncheonette for breakfast on their way to work.”

Feds providing Sandy relief funds

Milford Mayor Ben Blake, whose city was hit hardest by Sandy, said Milford was depending upon federal assistance to recover from the storm.

“The federal relief is what we need to reimburse the city for the enormous expense of Sandy cleanup and also to help homeowners who lost everything and have nowhere else to turn,” Blake said.

“This disaster took longer to fund than any other, for whatever reason, and now that the federal dollars are finally here, we’re already losing it to sequester,” he said.

Don Eng is editor of The Valley Gazette, also produced by Hersam Acorn Newspapers.