|Shutdown Already Weighing on Low-Income Americans|
|By JOAN E. GREVE||Oct 2, 2013, 1:10 PM|
The federal government's partial shutdown is only two days old, but lower-income families have already been pinched by the "lapse of funding."
Here are some of the at-risk programs:
Funding for the supplemental nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) halted Monday night, as congressional Democrats and Republicans could not reach a budget resolution. The effects on the national program's 8.9 million recipients have varied, depending on the state.
While Arkansas, for instance, has a plan to continue the funding on a week-to-week basis, Utah's WIC offices have already had to turn away mothers who depend on the service for baby formula.
"States are operating in an environment of tremendous uncertainty," National WIC Association President & CEO Douglas Greenaway said in a statement. "It depends on the individual state and their unique situation is so fluid that it's nearly impossible for us to keep real-time tabs on each state's status."
Roughly 19,000 children enrolled in the early-education Head Start programs might be unable to attend preschool this week.
Twenty of Head Start's 1,600 U.S. programs did not receive the funding Monday night needed to keep their doors open. Some programs, such as the Cheaha Regional Head Start in Talladega, Ala., had to stop running as early as Tuesday morning.
"Some of these parents are working parents," Cheaha director Dora Jones told NPR. "Some of these parents are parents that are in school. They have no other choice and no alternatives for child care."
If the shutdown continues, more Head Start programs across the country could be forced to close, as well.
The senior nutrition program Meals on Wheels might be forced to suspend services if the shutdown continues "for any considerable length of time," MOW President and CEO Ellie Hollander said in a Tuesday news release.
The program, which provides more than 1 million meals to seniors daily, relies on government funding to distribute its food. "Facing such funding uncertainty, programs could be forced to suspend meal services, create or expand waiting lists for meals, cut the number of meals or days they serve, reduce delivery days, etc.," Hollander added.
The Federal Housing Administration will not approve or underwrite any new loans during the shutdown, which could cause delays for low- to middle-income borrowers and first-time homeowners. Roughly 30 percent of home mortgages are backed by the FHA. Small-business loans backed by the government would also be halted for approval.
If the shutdown stretches into colder days, some families might need to scramble to heat their homes. The federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) could be delayed in providing funds to families that cannot afford heat during the winter. The delay could affect 200,000 residents in Massachusetts alone, according to Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass.