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What the 'sequester' means for you ... and what won't change

For millions of Americans, life should go on much as usual, but for millions of others cuts in federal spending from the 'sequester' are likely to bring tangible effects. Which camp are you in?

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Schools. Some 70,000 students enrolled in prekindergarten Head Start would be cut from the program and 14,000 teachers would lose their jobs, according to Obama administration estimates. For students with special needs, the cuts would eliminate some 7,200 teachers and aides.

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College. The Education Department has warned that the cuts could affect as many as 29 million student loan borrowers. 

Food safety. Federal food inspections will be fewer, but Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg says most of the effects won't be felt for a while, and the agency won't have to furlough workers.

Medicare. Hospitals, doctors, and other Medicare providers will see a 2 percent cut in government reimbursements under the cuts.

Programs for poor or vulnerable citizens. The White House estimates that 100,000 formerly homeless people would lose access to shelter, 373,000 people diagnosed with mental health problems would face service cuts, and 4 million fewer "meals on wheels" would be served during the current fiscal year (which ends Sept. 30). Child-care subsidies for low-income workers would reach some 30,000 fewer children.

National parks. Visiting hours at America’s 398 national parks are likely to be reduced. Park service director Jon Jarvis has said visitors can expect to encounter locked restrooms, fewer rangers, and trash cans that are emptied less frequently.

Longer-term effects. The sequester cuts, if left in place, would restrain funding across affected agencies for 10 years. Some effects on ordinary Americans would appear slowly and perhaps in less-visible ways, some economists say. Cuts to investments in scientific research, for example, could dampen economic growth. Similarly, the Pentagon says the cuts come at a cost to military readiness, and the State Department has warned that the reductions would affect many efforts it takes to “advance peace, security, and stability around the world.”

Many economists say the ideal approach is not the arbitrary style of cuts imposed by the sequester, but a long-term plan to tame deficits through entitlement reforms, plus a mix of other spending and tax adjustments.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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