No Surprises: How the Government Shutdown Impacts the Most Vulnerable of Americans

I knew the government had shut down when I saw this all over my Facebook newsfeed. As amusing as I found it as an ardent Mean Girls fan, for many Americans the shutdown is not exactly a laughing matter.

While federal assistance programs like food stamps, Medicaid and some Social Security benefits will continue, many Special Supplemental Nutrition Programs for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) are quickly running out of money. About 9 million mothers and children living near or below the poverty line rely on WIC to provide vouchers for healthy food, baby food, formula, health care referrals, and other resources. While some states have money left over from last fiscal year to continue the program, most are anticipated to run out within the week.

Another way in which children will be affected by the shutdown is via Head Start Programs, which already faced cuts during the sequester. Head Start provides comprehensive education and health and nutrition services to about 1-million low-income children and their families. At first about 20 of the 1,600 Head Start programs shut down, as their federal grants were set to expire on October 1, but already four more programs (serving 3,200 preschool students) have closed, and another 11 could close by Friday unless funding is restored.

Unfortunately it doesn’t stop there for low-income Americans. The Federal Housing Administration will not approve any new loans, “which could cause delays for low- to middle-income borrowers and first-time homeowners,” and the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) may also be delayed in providing funding for heating the homes of low-income families this winter.

A disabled veteran flies flag upside down to express frustration with the government shutdown

If the shutdown continues, the Veteran Affairs office will not be able to make compensation and pension payments. Veterans make up a disproportionate amount of America’s homeless population, so it isn’t surprising that many rely heavily on this money and live check-to-check. And, notably, of the 800,000 federal employees being furloughed—which is being told not to go to work because you’re not getting paid—1 in 4 is a veteran.

Disabled veterans are facing a double whammy, as those appealing the denial of disability benefits will have to wait longer for a decision—the Board of Veterans cannot make decisions during a shutdown. But the shutdown affects all disabled Americans: the Social Security administration won’t be scheduling new hearings for those applying for disability benefits.

In a way, then, the government shutdown is business as usual: when something bad happens, it happens more to society’s most vulnerable. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts sums up the B.S. reasons for all this quite succinctly.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UA3I4HAvgUs By Sophia Seawell, Contributor 

Related Reading

Why Race Matters in the Government Shutdown

Government Shutdown Will Hit Federal Workers, Poor Americans

‘Back Home’: Female veterans often find unwelcoming system, insensitive treatment

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