The US Capitol in Washington, Saturday, September 28, 2013, with the midnight Monday deadline fast approaching for Congress to break an impasse over funding the government. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Shortly after 2 pm today the Senate stripped several of the House GOP’s amendments from a short-term funding bill and sent the legislation back, making it all but certain that a partial government shutdown will occur at midnight.
The economic impact of a shutdown depends on how long it lasts, but workers and the poor are likely to be hit the hardest. About 800,000 of 2.1 million federal employees will be furloughed, with no guarantee of retroactive pay. “Essential” employees like active-duty service members, scientists posted to the International Space Station, mine inspectors for the Department of Labor, and Secret Service agents will continue to work, many without pay. The members of Congress creating the mess are considered essential, and will receive their paychecks.
Low-income women and children, on the other hand, may not be able to access food and health care. That’s because federal funds will not be available for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which provides food benefits and clinical services. States may have enough cash to continue operations for a few days, but even federal contingency funds “would not fully mitigate a shortfall for the entire month of October,” according to the US Department of Agriculture, which administers the program. Food stamp recipients would still receive their benefits through the SNAP program, but other nutritional programs would shut down.
Several Head Start programs, which have already experienced crippling budget cuts under sequestration, would feel immediate effects and may be unable to offer educational services to children. By late October, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs will run out of funds to pay compensation and pension to more than 3.6 million veterans.
The DC area would feel the shutdown most acutely. According to the New York Times the federal government employs about 30 percent of the workers in the District of the Columbia, 20 percent of those in Arlington County, Virginia, and 10 percent in Montgomery County, Maryland. Because of the sequester government workers have already been hit with pay freezes and furloughs, and 330,000 people in the region lost their jobs.