BOSTON (CBS) – Whether its student loans, transportation, or heating assistance, millions of Americans get a helping hand from the federal government.

But the so-called fiscal cliff threatens the funding for many of those services if lawmakers don’t reach a deal by the end of the year.

Q & A: Ask Our Financial Experts Your Questions

Up to 10-percent of discretionary federal spending could be cut.

That means the financial aid for thousands of students at UMass could be in jeopardy.

That money can make the difference whether a student can even stay in school.

The budget cuts would run the gamut and affect people in ways they never imagined.

“Even if they go into effect temporarily, it would mean substantial reductions in aid to schools, reductions in highway construction, retiring Rep. Barney Frank told WBZ.

Swampscott Town Administrator Thomas Younger says even towns on solid financial footing would feel the pinch.

There would be a ripple effect, he says, because Washington would send less money to the state and that would turn into less local aid to cities and towns.

“It cuts across all demographics,” Younger told WBZ.

“There would be a program that would be reduced, so whether it is a school program or if the schools are fully funded on that, would there be another program within general government that would need to be reduced?”

So that might mean road construction comes to a halt.

Or libraries will be closed.

Or even worse, according to Mark Alston-Follansbee of the Somerville Homeless Coalition.

Almost half of their funding is from the feds and pleas for help continue to rise.

“The biggest fear of this cliff is that we are going to be inundated even more than we have been now, and we are not going to have the resources to help people,” he said.

Massachusetts Congressman Michael Capuano thinks the fiscal cliff debate is muddied because many of us don’t think we use government services.

He said we forget about roads and bridges and un-glamorous things, like subsidies for water treatment plants. will have an expert on call for a live Q&A Monday through Friday from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. to answer your questions about the fiscal cliff.

The series “Inside the Fiscal Cliff” airs all week at 5 and 11 p.m. on WBZ-TV and at 5:55 a.m., 8:55 a.m., 12:21 p.m., and 4:55 p.m. on WBZ NewsRadio 1030.


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