The US government shut down today after the Democratic-controlled Senate rejected the Republican-controlled House of Representatives’ measure that would keep the government operating for 10 weeks in exchange for a delay in implementing parts of the Affordable Care Act. As a result, over 800,000 federal workers will be furloughed and a variety of government services will be put on hold.
Historically marginalized communities and the working poor are most likely to feel the negative effects of the shutdown. Around 20 out 1,600 Head Start programs will shut down right away, and more will be affected over time. The Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC), which helps pregnant women and new moms buy healthy food if they are poor and facing “nutrition risk,” could shut down for lack of funds. And there will be delays in processing new disability benefit applications, student loan and federal grant applications, home loans, and new visa and citizenship applications. More programs may lose funding or shut down if the government impasse lasts longer than a few days.
In a statement at the White house yesterday, President Obama said, “Keeping the people’s government open is not a concession to me. Keeping vital services running and hundreds of thousands of Americans on the job is not something you ‘give’ to the other side. It’s our basic responsibility.”