by Tim McLaughlin, Sr. VP, Weichert Financial
Much has been written about the automatic, across the board budget cuts contained in the Budget Control Act of 2011, otherwise known as “Sequestration,” but many critical questions remain regarding official interpretations of the legislation and how it will actually be implemented on an agency by agency basis. These include questions as to exactly which governmental spending accounts are or are not subject to sequestration, how deep the percentage reduction will be in the accounts that are subject to sequestration, how much latitude agencies have in selecting the specific expenditures that will be cut, and what the offsetting expenditures will be in implementing the proposed cuts.
Various estimates of the across the board cuts that would be required in programs subject to sequestration range between 8.5% and 10% for fiscal year 2013, with some going as high as 13.3%.
But sequestration would impact different programs across the government in very different ways. With government grant programs such as Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the impact can be estimated with some degree of precision. Others are not as easy to project.
A great question is how will this impact the mortgage banking sector? Although mortgage bankers aren’t (yet) worried that the sequester will hammer applications, the Federal Housing Administration could be in for some adjustments. The Department of Housing and Urban Development and Ginnie Mae could be forced to furlough thousands of employees if sequestration spending cuts go into effect as scheduled on March 1.
HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan warned lawmakers recently that cuts in several agency programs, including the FHA single-family mortgage insurance program, would leave HUD short on staff and slow the delivery of services to numerous families, individuals and communities that rely on these programs.
Many of the 9,000 HUD employees in 81 field offices across the country would be subject to forced leave and other personnel actions, although sequestration plans are still under review, Donovan said. On the other hand, Ginnie Mae will also be hit by spending cuts, though not as significantly as HUD. An estimated $2 million would be cut from the agency’s Mortgage Backed Securities Loan Guarantee Program under the sequestration rules.
We will keep a watchful eye on this.