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Feb 28, 2013 7:39 PM by Erika Flores

Tucsonans using housing assistance worried about sequester

TUCSON-Across the board federal spending cuts are set to kick in soon.

President Obama has an 11th hour meeting with congressional leaders Friday to try to avoid those cuts, but with no agreement, programs affecting the working class and needy will feel the impact.

Thousands of families that rely on Section 8 Housing are bracing for the worst.

Over 55 hundred Tucsonans depend on housing assistance, and they are worried about what the future holds for them with these impending cuts.

Seventy-year-old Warren Benton is an army Veteran on a fixed income.
"I'm barely making it," said Benton. "I get a total of 730 bucks a month."

And 25 dollars in food stamps each month.

"You can't even buy a pound of meat anymore for 5 bucks," said Benton.

The only way he can afford this apartment is with Housing Choice Vouchers from the city.

"It's been a life saver," said Benton.

With Housing Choice Vouchers commonly known as Section 8 Housing, people like Benton can afford a place to live.

"If I lose my housing, I'll be living outside," said Benton.

As many as 250 families in this program could lose housing if the government doesn't come up with an agreement on spending cuts.

"That's scary," said Benton.

Andrea Ibanez with Tucson's Housing and Community Development said the sequester will not affect these Tucsonans right away.

"We believe we can float enough funds internally to not have them out of housing until May," said Ibanez.

But many people in this program have nowhere else to turn.

"I'd have to move, and I don't know where I'd move to," said Elaine Parker, who also uses Housing Choice Vouchers.

The sequester would also put Tucson's Public Housing Program on the chopping block.

"It'd be kind of rough on me. It'd be very rough," said Parker.

Ibanez said the city is doing all it can do.

"We intend to follow those families and find out how are things are going...give them as much social support as is available in the community," said Ibanez.

But unless Congress can come up with an agreement, the future of housing assistance looks grim.

"They need to quit playing politics and start worrying about taking care of what they're supposed to be taking care of," said Benton.

The cuts should automatically start Friday, but Congress has until just before midnight to come to an agreement.

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