What Does the Shutdown Mean for Human Services?

The closing of the National Park System is the most cited example of how the impact of the government shutdown affects everyday Americans. But the shutdown will also have a real and hurtful impact on our most vulnerable citizens.

Children and youth are already feeling the pinch. Funding cycles largely determine what programs are still operating and so 23 head start programs serving 19,000 students were forced to close today for lack of funding. More will shutdown on Friday, and even more at the end of the month if the shutdown continues that long.

WIC–supplemental nutrition funding for women, children, and 53% of newborns–will lose funding and stop feeding its beneficiaries on October 10th. The program has received contingency funding from the USDA to fund the program through the end of the month, but even those funds run out on November 1st.

Veterans will also be impacted. If the shutdown lasts longer than 2-3 weeks, the VA will run out of money, and will not be able to pay benefits in November. They are also unable to process new disability claims until the government resumes.

All of these agencies are doing the best they can to stretch their resources to the max and reduce the impact on everyday Americans. But their ability to continue doing so depends on Congressional willingness to get the government running again.

But while we’re all talking about the impact of Congress and the budget currently in play, we should also focus on the guarantee of more cuts in the future thanks to the Sequester.

WIC had $200 million cut from its budget due to the sequestration. Programs for children and youth have been cut by 20% since 2010 when adjusted for inflation. When adjusted for the children’s lifespans, however, these are much larger costs. Programs for children are investments in their generation that guarantee lower crime rates, higher graduation rates, and lower rates of social isolation. It’s much easier, and cheaper, to invest in children than to fix broken men.

Let’s also not forget SNAP and the House’s recent passage of a bill to cut $40 billion from the program over the next ten years. Soon (assuming the government shut down is concluded) the Senate and the House will enter negotiations to close the gap between the Senate’s bill, which proposes cutting $4 billion from SNAP, and the House’s $40 billion. Though the Senate’s cuts are 10 times less, its indicative of the attitude the government and the public has about human services. Rather than seeing them as an asset and levelers of opportunity and roads to self-reliance, many see human service programs as a burden on society. The National Human Services Assembly recently shared research on how to make messaging more effective for the field, and now more than ever, is the time when we need to do this.

The shutdown brings the public’s full attention to Congress and the budget, and it would be a missed opportunity not to focus that attention on the current state of the human services field as it recovers from, and anticipates more, cuts.

  1. Read “Report: Congress spends less and less on children” here.
  2. Read “WIC support for moms, babies threatened during shutdown” here.
  3. Read “Head Start Preschoolers Told To Stay Home Due To Gov’t Shutdown” here.
  4. Read “Federal government shutdown, FY2014 funding and afterschool programs” here.
  5. Read “Advocates Fret About Effects of Government Shutdown” here. 
  6. Read “Government Shutdown FAQ for Veterans” here.

One thought on “What Does the Shutdown Mean for Human Services?

  1. Pingback: 9 things you need to know about the government shutdown | Sunset Daily

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