Will federal sequestration—the automatic budget cuts set to take effect today—impact you? It depends on your business and on who you ask.
What is sequestration?
Sequestration is the name for federal budget cuts (primarily in defense spending) scheduled to begin on March 1 if Congress fails to find way to make required budget cuts to meet a pre-set level. The exact amount of these cuts is difficult to determine; it changes from source to source (I’ve seen mention of $85 billion in initial cuts). Overall, sequestration is supposed to make cuts of $1.5 trillion over 10 years. Also, sequestration means that the federal government is limited in the amount of additional borrowing. Details about the cuts from sequestration can be found in a Congressional Budget Office Report.
Sequestration was suggested by President Obama and agreed to by Congress in the Budget Control Act of 2011 as part of a compromise to raise the federal debt limit.
Which businesses will likely be impacted?
Entrepreneur Magazine said sequestration could result in a “dramatic decrease” in government contracts (how much is unclear). The Chairman of the House Small Business Committee agrees. Many small businesses receive contracts directly or as subcontractors of prime contractors.
A White House blog fact sheet says sequestration could result in fewer SBA-guaranteed loans. These are commercial loans that receive government guarantees. The fact sheet pegs the cutback at $902 million.
The New York Times reported that a senior policy analyst with the National Federation of Independent Business thought it impossible to predict the impact of sequestration on small business and whether it would hurt the economy.
Let’s be realistic about the specter of sequestration vis-à-vis small business. Not every small enterprise is in the market for a loan or is a government contractor. Little else has been discussed on the overall impact that sequestration would have on small business. The actual budget cut resulting from sequestration is only a drop in the federal budget bucket (probably about 2%). Many businesses I know would readily cut their budget by this amount if they didn’t have the funds to pay 100% of what they had previously expected. Why shouldn’t the federal government do the same?
What’s more, even if March 1 comes and goes without further Congressional budgetary action, nothing prevents some activity down the road. Let’s not panic. Let’s wait and see.
Barbara Weltman is an attorney, author (with such titles as J.K. Lasser’s Small Business Taxes and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Starting a Home-Based Business), and trusted professional advocate for small businesses and entrepreneurs. She is also the publisher of Idea of the Day® and monthly e-newsletter Big Ideas for Small Business® at www.barbaraweltman.com, and host of Build Your Business radio. Follow her on Twitter: @BarbaraWeltman.