The collapse of Congress’ supercommittee last week could lead to mandatory cuts among several federal programs benefiting people with disabilities, advocates say.

Last week, Democrats and Republicans on the so-called “supercommittee” said that they were unable to reach an agreement. The panel of a dozen lawmakers was tasked with developing a plan to reduce the nation’s deficit ahead of a Nov. 23 deadline.

Without a deal, automatic spending cuts to the tune of $1.2 trillion were triggered and are slated to begin in January 2013.

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And that leaves several unknowns for the disability community, advocates say. While programs like Medicaid and Social Security will not be affected, other government programs assisting people who have disabilities with everything from housing to transportation to employment could be in jeopardy.

“Because the committee was unable to enact a thoughtful, balanced and collaboratively developed deficit reduction package, we now face devastating mandatory cuts to many critical programs,” said Donna Meltzer, chair of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, a coalition of some 100 national disability groups.

Disability advocates put considerable effort this fall into urging members of the supercommittee not to cut Medicaid services which they called a “lifeline.” The efforts culminated with a Capitol Hill rally in September at which more than 90 groups joined to show support for the Medicaid program.

Ironically, with the supercommittee’s collapse, Medicaid is one program that appears to be safe for now.

“Unfortunately, no deal at the moment leaves lots of unknowns for the rest of the programs on which people with disabilities rely on to live independent lives,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

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