The federal government is scheduled to enact $85 billion in immediate cuts Friday, and $1.2 trillion in reductions over 10 years, as part of a debt ceiling deal agreed upon two years ago, unless Congress acts first.
The Head Start early education program is among many that could see a loss in funding.
At the Pine Head Start program in Long Beach, which serves more than 1,000 children, staff members said they were concerned about the impact after teachers saved it from closing last year by taking pay cuts.
"We've already been cut so much and we're all concerned because we don't know what's going to happen come fall," said head teacher Angela Hullett.
At the city and county levels, officials around the region stopped short of forecasting draconian immediate effects beyond impacts to air travel.
Airports across the region could have fewer air traffic controllers, security screeners and custom officers as federal agencies impose furloughs and other cuts, though officials said they were uncertain how the reductions would take place.
Long Beach Airport Director Mario Rodriguez described the network of airports as an interconnected "spider web" where, at any given time, 50,000 aircraft are in the skies ferrying passengers and cargo between almost 500 airports.
"In other words, they'll take the six-lane highway and turn it into a four-lane highway," Rodriguez said last week.
The Federal Aviation Administration is facing a $600 million cut, and officials will furlough most of the agency's 47,000 employees at least one day per pay period, which could lead to slower air traffic, a White House report said.
The FAA is also looking at eliminating overnight hours at Ontario Airport and may potentially close several local airports, including El Monte, Riverside, Victorville, Palmdale, Oxnard, Santa Monica and Lancaster.
The Transportation Security Administration could also be forced to have workers take time off, increasing passenger waiting time by 30 to 50 percent, the report said. Workforce reductions at the U.S. Customs Service at major hubs such as the Los Angeles International Airport could result in wait times of up to four hours for international travelers.
TSA officials said it could be 60 days before major delays are experienced, leading to some hope that lawmakers can hammer out a deal before then.
Speaking to the nation's governors on Monday, President Barack Obama also acknowledged that the impact of the cuts may not be felt immediately. But he said the uncertainty is already impacting the economy, as the Pentagon and other agencies get ready to furlough employees.
"At some point we've got to do some governing," Obama said. "And certainly what we can't do is keep careening from manufactured crisis to manufactured crisis."
Even as Obama told governors that the across-the-board cuts could be avoided with "just a little bit of compromise," his administration released a state-by-state breakdown of the effects of the so-called sequester in a last ditch attempt to pressure congressional Republicans to stop the indiscriminate reductions.
Republicans, however, accused Obama of spreading fear about the spending cuts.
"He's trying to scare the American people. He's trying to distort the impact," said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. "The president needs to stop campaigning. Stop trying to scare the American people."
According to the White House, California would be hit hard, losing $87.6 million in funding for primary and secondary education, along with an additional $62.9 million for educators who help children with disabilities.
Early education will also be cut, as the government eliminates Head Start and Early Head Start services for about 8,200 children.
Hullett, the Long Beach Head Start teacher, said early childhood programs are essential for preparing children in low-income communities.
"They get so much preparation before they reach kindergarten that the kindergarten teachers really know the difference," she said. "They can tell which students were in Head Start and which students were not."
The Los Angeles Unified School District estimates it would lose about $37 million, roughly 5 percent of the $725 million in federal money it expects to receive next year to help educate nearly 600,000 students. Officials at the nation's second-largest school district were working Monday to figure out what programs it would cut from its $6 billion budget to close the gap left by sequestration.
The Long Beach Unified School District, the state's third-largest district, is budgeted to receive about $66 million this year in federal revenue, but under proposed cuts the district would lose about $3.5 million annually, said LBUSD spokesman Chris Eftychiou.
Vaccine funding would also suffer, falling by $1.1 million statewide and causing 15,810 fewer children to be inoculated for diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza and Hepatitis B, the White House said.
Pentagon spending reductions would furlough about 64,000 civilian defense employees in California, reducing pay by approximately $399.4 million. Funding for Army base operations would drop by about $54 million, while money to run Air Force operations would go down by about $15 million.
The Southern California Leadership Council has projected that in the next eight years, there would be 336,000 total defense-related jobs lost statewide due to federal budget cuts, with 136,000 lost due to sequestration. Defense reductions will also result in $21 billion in lost economic output in that time, with $7.5 billion of that from sequestration.
Brown wouldn't comment Monday on Obama's statements, but earlier this month he called all of the impending cuts a risk to the state's improved budget outlook.
"I can't discern what they are going to do in Washington because I don't even know if they know themselves," Brown said at a housing summit in Oakland.
"But the takeaway for California is that we have to maintain a proven surplus, because we could lose hundreds of millions of dollars by decisions that Congress makes."
With no impending compromise in Washington, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is staying in touch with local officials on any sequester-related action that is needed, spokesman Peter Sanders said.
Los Angeles City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said the city could see $115 million in federal grant reductions.
Of that, $23 million is from Community Development Block Grants, which fund affordable housing, poverty and infrastructure initiatives, and $92 million in public housing funds.
Transportation funds totaling $729 million and $9 million for a variety of public safety programs may also be affected, Santana said.
Los Angeles County officials said they are facing similar issues but predict little immediate public impact.
"If sequester cuts go into effect, the overall net impact on the county is likely to be small, less than 1 percent of the $5.408 billion in federal revenue the county receives," a report from County Executive Officer Bill Fujioka says.
Most county programs funded by the federal government are exempt from the sequestration because they involve mandatory programs such as Medicaid and other low-income government assistance.
Long Beach, the county's second-largest city, could lose about $15 million annually, mostly from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, but one city official said the uncertainty in Washington makes potential impacts difficult to quantify.
In San Bernardino County, one area that the cuts could impact is providing affordable housing for low-income residents.
According to officials at the Housing Authority of the County of San Bernardino, sequestration would reduce its $110 million budget by $5.5 million. The agency provides housing to about 31,000 people, but it already has 35,000 families on its waiting list even without federal cuts.
"They are seniors, children," Housing Authority CEO Daniel Nackerman said of his clients. "They are often people who have jobs, often low-paying jobs. They are veterans, increasing numbers of veterans. They are people who are already suffering because of the local economy."
Paul Granillo, CEO of the business advocacy group Inland Empire Economic Partnership, was more blunt about events in Washington.
"People elect leaders, and what we're looking at here is a total lack of leadership," Granillo said.
"It is proper to say that this is stupid."
Federal sequester's local impact by the numbers136,000: Number of defense jobs statewide that would be lost. The Pentagon also would furlough about 64,000 civilian defense employees in California, reducing pay by approximately $399.4 million.
$600 million: Amount FAA would have to cut nationally. Locally, Ontario Airport could cut overnight hours and some local airports could close due to cuts to airport agencies.
1,210: Number of teacher and teacher's aide jobs at risk due to $87.6 million in potential cuts to primary and secondary schools.
8,200: Number of children statewide who would lose Head Start early education.
-- Ontario Airport could cut overnight hours and some local airports could close because of Transportation Security Administration cuts.
-- 9,600 fewer low-income students in California would receive college financial
-- The Los Angeles Unified School District could cut $37 million
-- 336,000 statewide defense-related jobs would be lost
-- 15,810 fewer California children would receive vaccines
Sources: White House, Los Angeles Unified School District, Southern California Leadership Council
Staff writers Barbara Jones and Andrew Edwards and The Associated Press contributed to this report.