If the government is shut down well into November, the costs in both economic terms and vital support withheld from struggling Americans are likely to add up quickly. The shutdown has already cost $2 billion in lost economic output, a figure that increases by $160 million a day. Another six weeks could add at least $6.7 billion to the price tag.
On top of that, many programs that aren’t receiving federal money right now are hobbling along with state-level funds to cover the gap, but most have said that doing so for more than a month may stretch them too far and may lead to a cut off in services.
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, formally known as welfare, hasn’t gotten any federal money since October 1. While all states have stepped up to the plate to continue sending out benefits, after a month experts expected they may begin to pull back and some may not have the funds to keep it going.
NUTRITION FOR POOR WOMEN AND CHILDREN
Fifty thousand low-income mothers and infants who rely on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program in North Carolina aren’t getting benefits because that program is also not receiving any money from the federal government, and in November more will likely join them. Experts say the ability to continue operations will only last for a few weeks.
More than 7,000 low-income preschoolers were about to be denied Head Start because their programs aren’t able to get the funds they were due while the government is shut down, although wealthy philanthropists offered money to keep those classrooms open. But 23 programs that serve 19,000 children total were owed money in October, putting them at risk of closing down, and another group will be impacted come November.
Some schools that rely on Impact Aid as a significant part of their budgets because they are on or near Native American reservations or military bases have sent requests for early payment to cover pressing needs. But many have said that if that money doesn’t come through by the end of the month they will have to consider firing staff, borrowing money with interest, putting off necessary purchases and repairs, and other measures.
While the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, has been mostly sheltered from the shutdown, the job training programs that are part of it have not, as they have stopped getting money. The amount of money states have to cover the costs in the meantime varies. One expert predicted that just a few days of a shutdown would mean closure for some of these programs. Worse, if recipients who live in states with strict work requirements aren’t able to access job training programs, they may not be able to meet those requirements and could be denied benefits altogether.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROGRAMS
Domestic violence programs that offer abused women shelter and services aren’t able to draw down their federal funds. Some programs have other sources of funding to cover their operations, but smaller, rural programs that rely more heavily on federal dollars are looking at having to close down. The longer they wait for that money, the more will be impacted.
As temperatures are dropping, low-income people will need help from the Low-Income Heating Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) program to cover the cost of heating their homes. But that program has already been battered by budget cuts and is now in limbo without federal funds. While most programs should have leftover funds from last year to cover the payments for now, those are usually used to re-open administrative offices that were closed during the summer. Waiting more than a month may put a real strain on states’ ability to send out vouchers.
Federal courts have said they will stay operational, but only for a few weeks, with most reassessing come mid-October. After that point they could run out of funding and shut down.
Come October 13, officials in Washington, DC warn that they will likely run out of the ability to cover the loss of government funding that they rely on for basic services due to the shutdown. That will mean fire departments, trash collection, some buses, the city’s university, and many other facilities and programs will cease operating.
COMMUNITIES NEAR NATIONAL PARKS
Local communities near national parks, which are shut down while the government remains shut down, are losing $76 million every day.