- The Progressive Pulse - http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org -

Shutdown spreading unnecessary economic pain to many vulnerable children and families

The ongoing shutdown is a nightmare for low-income Americans who, time after time, are the hardest hit when politicians hold the economy hostage for political gain. Vulnerable populations, including many North Carolinians, were already dealing with deep across-the-board sequestration cuts to social programs in March. Now, due to the absence of responsible behavior by the House of Representatives, the shutdown is adding another layer of economic pain to struggling families trying to make ends meet and gain a foothold on the economic ladder. The U.S. House needs to pass a spending plan for 2014, without obligations.

You don’t have to look far to see the devastation that the shutdown—now in its 10th day—is causing among North Carolinians. Hours after the shutdown Governor McCrory furloughed 337 federally-funded health and human services workers [1], including child care regulators whose role is to enforce quality and safety measures in child care centers across the state.  He also reduced the hours for employees who are paid in-part by federal funds. Some of the federal workers furloughed in the state took to a protest earlier today [2], urging federal lawmakers to re-open the federal government because they want to work and have families to support.

The pain doesn’t stop there. The shutdown is strangling the delivery of food assistance in North Carolina. We learned a couple days ago that some families are being turned away from WIC [3]—the food and nutrition program for new mothers and young children. So, for some women who are now delivering babies but aren’t sure where their next meal will come from, there is one less support to help them keep their babies healthy and weather the stressors of new motherhood. North Carolina is the only state to stop issuing food vouchers [4].

And by Friday’s end, 484 low-income children in Lee County will no longer be able to attend their child care center [5] due to the lapse in funding for child care subsidies. Not only will families be forced to find alternative child care or risk losing their jobs, but the sting will be felt by the 47 day care providers who attend to and teach these children on a daily basis. Funding for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which helps extremely low-income families get on the path to self-sufficiency, will run out by month’s end in the absence of federal dollars.

Businesses, particularly the tourism industry, are also feeling the economic pain. At least two privately run hotels operating on leased federal property were forced to close their doors [6] until the shutdown resolves, leaving workers without jobs in the meantime.

In a nutshell, the shutdown is pushing people out of work when the nation needs to be putting more people back to work, turning away mothers and their young in need of food assistance, and robbing children of their ability to learn and develop in a healthy environment. The longer the shutdown lasts, the more harm it causes to vulnerable children, families, and our economy.

But, it doesn’t have to be this way. The U.S. House should pass a spending plan for 2014, without conditions, that includes a responsible mix of new revenue and smart spending cuts that supports the economy and does not grow poverty.