L.A. Faces Major Budget Cuts if Congress Does Not Act

Los Angeles could lose up to $115 million in funding by July for housing, community development, and public safety programs if steep federal budget cuts scheduled for March 1 are not averted by Congress, the city's top budget analyst said Thursday.

Congress and President Barack Obama in 2011 agreed to make across-the- board cuts to defense and discretionary spending of about $110 billion per year over 10 years, if Congress did not come up with new revenue or specify other cuts by Jan. 1.

As part of the so-called "fiscal cliff" deal this week to avoid income tax increases on most Americans, Congress delayed the cuts until March 1.

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said the scheduled federal budget cuts would slash about $23 million for Los Angeles public safety and homeland security initiatives and $92 million for local public housing assistance and support services.

Santana urged the City Council and mayor in a report to instruct affected city departments to make contingency plans if the cuts go into effect and to notify stakeholders that rely on the funding of potential disruptions in services.

Among the most severe cuts would be a $48 million reduction in Section 8 housing vouchers for low-income families. The cut would force about 15,000 low-income families to pay an extra $115 per month for housing and is likely to jeopardize many families' housing assistance, Santana said.

The police and fire departments are expected to lose almost $8 million that pays for analysis of DNA crime kits, a program to fight internet crimes against children, and an effort to reduce rape in prison and detention facilities.

Santana said last week the cuts could force the mayor and City Council to consider layoffs of positions funded by the grants. "To the extent that the federal funding is supporting specific positions, that would be an option to consider," Santana said. "We would not want to be in a situation where the general fund is being used to support those programs at a time when the general fund is already running a deficit."

The city is facing a budget deficit of well over $200 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

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