By KELLY MOELLER, JOSH SCHWARZ and JASMINE DURSUN
Since the last United States Government shutdown ended early in 1996, our ‘leaders’ on Capitol Hill have warned the nation plenty of times that it could happen again.
It just so happens that they weren’t bluffing. On Oct. 1 of this year, the government shut itself down and brought the lives of thousands of Americans to a screeching halt. Not only were those who work for government put at a disadvantage, but so were hundreds of thousands of citizens.
From parents and their babies, to health organizations and national parks, this whole nation felt the impact of the shutdown.
Shutdown Hurts Women and Children
In the time of the Titanic, the policy of “women and children first” was essential in times of disaster and strife. But in the current government shutdown, women and children make up a significant population who are being cut off from federal aid.
The 8.9 million women, infants and children who benefit from the federal WIC program have seen the suffering of a federal shutdown. The program, which provides everything from supplemental nutrition and breastfeeding support to health checkups and childcare referrals, gives low-income pregnant women and their children support to lean on.
“States can probably shelter families receiving WIC from the effects of a shutdown for a short period, but it could be a real problem if it lasts more than a few days,” policy analyst Elizabeth Lower-Basch of the Center for Law and Social Policy said in an email to Huffington Post.
WIC receives roughly $7 billion from the government, but the lack of communication in Congress has spiraled down to a contingency fund of just $125 million. From Utah to Arkansas, WIC funding is dissipating, relying on state money just to keep afloat.
Education for young children has also been affected. Head Start programs cater to children under the age of five who come from financially stricken households, preparing them for kindergarten. As many as nineteen thousand children weren’t enrolled in school since the dawn of the shutdown, and almost two-dozen Head Start programs that were due to get their grants Oct. 1 have been affected.
Raytown School District in Missouri will have to pay out of pocket if November payments are halted. In the South, Alabama and Florida almost had to close their Head Start programs until a private donation of $10 million was received to keep them open for a few weeks.
Despite the stress from lack of funding, Superintendent Dr. Allan Markley intends to prioritize education in Raytown.
“[The] American people are still resilient we will continue to offer an education whether the folks in Washington decide to play nice with one another,” he says. “We will continue to do what we do here and that’s educate kids.”
Important Health and Wellness Organizations Unable to Do Their Jobs
With the government shutdown looming over the heads of our politicians on Capitol Hill, they are not the only people affected. Many government organizations like; the CDC, FDA, Social Security, and Medicare, all have had obstacles thrown their way due to this government shutdown, making their jobs to provide for the American people increasingly difficult.
On the home page of the CDC’s Chief Financial Officer there is a paragraph describing their limitations due to the government shutdown. In the first paragraph updated on October 10, 2013, it states, “In the absence of either a Fiscal Year 2014 appropriation or a continuing resolution to fund HHS, including CDC, we have suspended routine government operations as required by law.”
The CDC is a massively important organization as it studies different diseases, looks for ways to prevent and cure them, as well as track and avoid them. Similarly, the FDA, an organization more immediately important was also affected.
The nation has grown very concerned during the time of the shut down, since they are hearing on the news that the FDA is not running on all cylinders, that their food will not be safe to eat in the coming days or weeks.
Barry Winograd, resident of New Jersey, says that he is concerned about the lack of attention being given to our resources.
“I was watching the news last week and was startled to hear of this salmonella outbreak. What was even more disheartening was that it was due to the lack of FDA presence due to the shutdown. I don’t know why the republicans felt this would change anything; they knew they would never default on their loans. It was stupid for them to resort to a shutdown if you ask me.”
So what were to happen if an elderly citizen who relies on government assistance for their health insurance was stricken with salmonella? Are they supposed to just buck-up and deal with it themselves while they await the status of their health insurance?
Bruce Schmidlin, a retired high school physics teacher of 40 years says that while he does have Medicare it is not his sole insurance plan. He then goes on to say that if it were he would not be so cool, calm, and collected.
“I have a larger pension from the State of New Jersey so I don’t completely depend on the Medicare payments, but if I had I, I would have definitely been frightened. I know several people who do depend on it and I don’t know how they do it, if they were to lose that it would be devastating. One thing that I do rely on from Medicare is their Hospitalization Insurance. Several months ago I needed 10 sessions of physical therapy after I had injured my knee. I was charged $1,000 a session. Because of the Medicaid I only paid $10 per session out of my pocket, $100 in total.”
U.S. National Landmarks Set to Re-open
Some of the most significant U.S. national landmarks will re-open after closing as a result of the government shutdown.
The Grand Canyon, Statue of Liberty, and Mount Rushmore were all closed because the government paid the salaries of the staff that
maintained the famous landmarks. A deal was struck that will temporarily allow the funding to come from the states rather than the national government. Arizona, New York, and South Dakota will be funding the upkeep of these national parks.
“Even a week without opening is dangerous for national parks,” said self-proclaimed environmentalist Lisa Morrow. “The business is already hurting in this economy and it’s disappointing that the people who should be the most protective of these places are the ones hurting it.”
Similarly, the re-opening of the Statue of Liberty will cost New York $61,600, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Statue of Liberty’s last significant closing was due to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, is adamant that the landmark cannot afford a lengthy closure, but knows it is the best solution for now.
”Every day that Liberty Island is closed means we are losing visitors who would otherwise be spending at our local businesses–not to mention the employees who maintain the park and have been forced out of work,” Cuomo stated in a press release about the re-opening. “This is a practical and temporary solution that will lessen the pain for some businesses and communities in New York during this shutdown.”
Each state official funding a national park knows this solution is only temporary, and they hope the government will resolve its issues and resume the funding that makes the landmarks some of the best in the world.
The Government ended the shutdown Oct. 17th, but what’s next? There were threats of another looming shutdown, although that is looking to be doubtful. So will the two sides come together to decide how to repay their debts? One thing is for sure, there needs to be compromise among these politicians regarding their policies; without it they are compromising the lives of millions of citizens.