Can you smell it? It's that time of year again! Red leaves peek out from dead branches, the air is getting colder, pumpkin-flavored treats can be purchased everywhere, and a vocal minority of the Republican party is threatening yet another government shutdown. Politicians like John Boehner and Ted Cruz are willing to leave millions of federal employees in limbo to make sure their temper tantrum over Obamacare gets noticed, even though a shutdown would do nothing to delay the very law they are protesting. If I could sum this entire episode in U.S. politics in one image, it would be this one.
Although it is true that Republicans seem to be taking their behavior cues from a pouty two-year-old, they don't seem to be considering how the government shutdown would impact this demographic. The impact on vulnerable children and mothers will be catastrophic. Many programs that help low-income women and children are at stake.
One of the first programs that will be affected is the Head Start programs. At least 20 out of 1600 of them will be affected straight away. According to the Administration for Children and Families, many grants were supposed to be renewed October 1, but no one will be there to process them.
In addition, families who live in poverty will be particularly affected because 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. The program costs $6 billion and provides pregnant women and new mothers who are at "nutritional risk" with healthy food. More than 9 million mothers, children, and infants rely on WIC. Single mothers also rely on temporary assistance for needy families (TANF) which might not be able to deliver payments if federal funds don't come in.
Single parents will also be left to fend for themselves because federal enforcement of delinquent child support will be delayed. This overwhelmingly affects low-income mothers, who make up over 80% of the parents that rely on child support. A quarter of these parents have incomes below the poverty line, which is twice as high as the overall poverty rate for the total population. And even now, 54% of parents don’t receive full support payments that are due to them, so you can just imagine what will happen when these government agencies shut down.
But do you know what won’t be cut during the government shutdown? Congress' salary.
How’s that for democracy?