Well, the time has finally come. According to The Washington Post, a shutdown of the federal government is officially upon us, starting today, Oct. 1. While it is clear that a government shutdown is not a good thing, the consequences put extra strain on the most vulnerable members of society.
Although major services, such as the postal service, Medicare and Social Security will not be affected, less prominent services that serve at-risk groups may be promptly curtailed. In addition, approximately 800,000 federal employees may see their paychecks be jeopardized as they will not be allowed to go into work and do their jobs.
The Department of Agriculture has announced that should the shutdown occur, "[no] additional federal funds would be available to support the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)’s clinical services, food benefits and administrative costs." This programs supports poor pregnant women and new mothers by helping them to buy food if they are facing a “nutrition risk.”
About nine million Americans use the WIC program. It may not be shut down completely depending on the actions of individual state governments and how long the shutdown lasts, but a “real problem” would arise if it stretches out for longer than a few days, according to policy analyst Elizabeth Lower-Basch of the Center for Law and Social Policy.
Small business and home mortgage lending programs would also be put on hold. Veterans appealing the denial of disability benefits to the Board of Veterans Appeals will have to wait longer for a decision as the board cannot issue any decisions during a shutdown. The rest of their programs should remain intact.
Students, both in public schools and private universities may be harmed as well. The Department of Education has released a contingency plan which states that 94% of its employees would be placed on furlough in the event of a shutdown. If the shutdown lasts beyond one week, the cash flow to schools will be disrupted, including the distribution of federal student loans and grants. This is especially troublesome to students at expensive private universities such as Boston College.
The government shutdown crisis is caused by a stalemate between the Democratic-controlled Senate and GOP majority House of Representatives over Obamacare. The House is attempting to defund Obamacare as part of their budget, while the Senate supports President Obama in trying to push through its own budget that would allocate its funding until mid-December.
The last time the government shut down was during the Clinton administration over the holiday season of 1995-1996. It is estimated that the shutdown cost taxpayers $1.4 billion. Another shutdown seemed inevitable in 2011, but Congress finally struck a deal with one hour remaining until the deadline.
The shutdown that begins on Oct. 1 has added to the public’s distaste for and disillusion with the federal government. Another long and drawn-out fight may be looming in a few months regarding whether or not to raise the debt ceiling. Unfortunately, those most at risk have little other choice but to hold on and see whether politicians can agree that their constituents are more important than partisan squabbles.
Featured image via Ken Hawkins/Wikimedia Commons.