Should the across-the-board federal spending cuts, known as the sequester, be enacted as currently planned, consumers could see wide-ranging impacts on their grocery bills and their federal tax refunds.
“This is not an abstraction; people will lose their jobs. The unemployment rate might tick up again,” President Barack Obama said.
The White House recently released a list of expected impacts of the sequester, which can be viewed by clicking here. The cuts impact many aspects of government: security lines at airports, national parks, Meals on Wheels, WIC, AIDS/HIV testing and Title I funding for schools, just to name a few.
Among the proposed cuts, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said the Food and Drug Administration could do 2,100 fewer inspections at facilities manufacturing food products. At the same time, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service may furlough all employees for two weeks.
“Virtually every item, line item will have to be reduced by the same percentage. If you happen to be in an agency like food safety you have very few lines,” said Vilsack.
The inspectors are responsible for ensuring meat, poultry and egg products are up to federal standards and, ultimately, safe to eat.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association accused Vilsack of playing politics with food safety and production, saying the furloughs would result in a shutdown meat producing facilities, as they can’t operate without federal inspection.
The association projected the impacts at over $10 billion in production losses; a shortage of meat products at restaurants and stores; and higher prices for consumers.
In addition those impacts, the IRS would furlough workers as well, leading to delays in processing returns and a shortage of people working at the call center to answer questions as people prepare their returns.
“I’ve been doing taxes for 15 years, and I’ve never seen a season like this season,” said Linda Bear, general manager at Jackson Hewitt. “They’re going to have less people in the IRS to process returns. I was on a call the other day with the IRS that took me over an hour to get an actual live person to talk to me. That could increase ten-fold.”
Tax season was delayed in January due to last-minute haggling over the fiscal cliff.
Bear recommends people prepare their returns as soon as possible, whether by themselves or through a professional, to avoid any potential fallout from the possible IRS furloughs.