If the shutdown drags on until November 1, things will become significantly worse for those who are already hurting the most.
A teacher leads children back to class after recess at the federally-funded Head Start school on Sept. 20, 2012 in Woodbourne, New York. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
It has now been 14 days since the federal government ceased all but essential services, furloughing over 800,000 workers (roughly 300,000 of whom have since been called back in to work). For many of America’s poorest and most vulnerable populations, the results have been devastating.
But the federal government is a mammoth institution, and when it shuts down, not everything stops at the same time. It takes time for the effects of lost grant money and halted state aid to truly be felt. If the shutdown drags on until November 1, those effects will soon become obvious—and for those who are already hurting the most, things will become significantly worse.
Here are some things that will happen if the government is still shut down on Friday, November 1:
More Head Start closures: Thousands of preschool-aged children from low-income families have already been forced out of Head Start childcare; on November 1, the same thing will happen to thousands more. At the beginning of each month, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) typically awards or renews year-long grants to dozens of Head Start programs across the country. Some 23 programs in 11 states saw their grants expire on Sept. 30; but on October 1, there was no functioning HHS around to renew the grants. As a result, all 23 of those programs—caring for about 19,000 toddlers, in total—lost their funding, and some were forced to close down entirely.
The cuts scheduled to occur on November 1 would be far more wide-ranging. Head Start programs in 41 states, caring for over 86,000 children, will see their grants expire on October 30, according to the National Head Start Association.
Millions of veterans will lose their VA benefits: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is due to distribute than $6 billion in benefits to American military veterans at the start of November. But if the federal government is still shut down at that point, the VA will have to delay or skip out on those payments, affecting as many as 5.1 million veterans, according to congressional testimony given by VA Secretary Eric Shinseki last Wednesday. Many of the affected recipients suffer from lingering war wounds, including some 433,000 fully disabled veterans. About half a million veterans and military spouses who are currently attending college may also lose tuition assistance.
The shutdown could totally cancel out three months of economic growth: Financial analyst Mark Zandi estimates that a month-long shutdown could reduce growth by between 1% and 1.5%. Without a shutdown, this quarter was expected to see the economy grow about 1.5%.
Low-income people in many states will lose nutrition assistance: Both SNAP (the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps) and WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) are funded through the rest of the month, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture is making no promises for after that. If the shutdown continues into November, it will be up to many state governments to find the money for SNAP and WIC, or cut benefits for the low-income households which rely on those programs.
State and local agencies may have to cut energy assistance programs: As the weather gets colder, many low-income Americans are going to rely on government subsidies in order to heat their homes. States and community-based agencies have not being receiving the Low Income Home Energy Assistant Program (LIHEAP) funds they use to provide these subsidies, and so will must either cut the program or pay for it themselves. Wisconsin has already put its Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program on indefinite hold, and other states may soon follow. Agencies in states such as Oregon, Massachusetts, and Iowa may soon be similarly affected.
Low-income families could miss their welfare checks: In Arizona, 5,150 families have already lost their monthly TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) checks as a result of the shutdown. In November, another 11,000 Arizona families could lose their benefits as well. North Carolina’s Health and Human Services Department recently suggested that residents of that state could also lose TANF benefits if the shutdown lasts into November.
Domestic violence shelters could be forced to close: Many shelters for abused spouses and children rely heavily on monthly grants from the federal government, provided to them either directly or filtered through state agencies. In Nevada—which has the highest domestic violence fatality rate in the country—the state government will continue to finance local domestic violence shelters for as long as it can, though it may not have the funds to do so without federal assistance through the end of October.