NC Budget and Tax Center

The possibility of a government shutdown was avoidable

For those of us digging out of the snow still, it may be surprising to learn that our country is facing a federal shutdown that could begin tomorrow based on the lack of progress on a long-term deal to fund programs and services, to ensure children have health care, and to make sure young adults have pathways to education and jobs no matter where they come from.

To avoid a shutdown, the House in Congress voted yesterday to approve legislation that would keep agency doors open and hundreds of thousands of federal employees at work through Feb. 16. It is now up to the Senate to decide today whether it will take the House bill and approve another short-term continuing resolution (CR) to avoid a federal shutdown.

Where we are now is not inevitable. It is the result of a failure to put together long-term plans for funding government and the preference for tax cuts that have grown the deficit.  Despite broad public support and bipartisan agreement that we should fund children’s health insurance and fix the temporary protections for immigrants who arrived in this country as children, these two issues are now caught up in this short-sighted deal-making.

The result of a government shutdown will be harmful to people and communities.

During government shutdowns, employees in all three branches of government are vulnerable to furlough, or temporary unpaid leave. Other “essential” workers, including those dealing with public safety and national security, continue working, some with pay and others without.

As North Carolina experienced during the last government shutdown in 2014 that lasted 16 days, programs like child care and meals for seniors were affected by the failure of Congress to pass a long-term plan to fund government.  Most grants to state and local governments are discretionary and would be affected in some way. Other programs that could be affected by the shutdown because no new funding would be available include: Vocational Rehabilitation – Basic State Grants, the Social Services Block Grant, Child Nutrition, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). However, certain mandatory benefit payments—such as SNAP benefits—may be made for up to 30 days after the CR’s expiration.

This is another crisis of Congressional leadership’s making that will be paid for by North Carolinians across the state.

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