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Why the Federal Shutdown Matters to Cities

October 2, 2013

While cities may not see an immediate hit to their budgets, you can be sure that many of their residents will see a direct hit to theirs if Congress doesn’t quickly get its act together.

As many are aware, federal employees will lose income for as long as they are unable to report to work, which could translate into difficulties paying their mortgages or rent, utilities, among other basic necessities.

But there are other significant consequences for residents that aren’t as obvious. For example, if they are applying for federal student loans, they may have to wait longer to get their loan, and therefore may face problems making tuition payments and staying in school.

If they are a veteran they will still be able to access medical services and benefits, but if they are appealing a decision or awaiting a resolution of a claim they may face a further delay in obtaining those benefits.

If they are low income, residents may face problems that could prove calamitous. Benefits for children who receive nutrition assistance through the Women, Infants, and Children supplemental nutrition program or WIC have stopped.

Some Head Start programs have been forced to shut down because their contracts expired and will not be renewed until the program receives a new appropriation. Until then, children in those Head Start centers will have no place to go to learn and play, and their parents, who have come to rely on those centers for day care while they are at work, will have to find alternative day care services, often at considerable cost.

Low income households that have relied on the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to heat or cool their homes may soon learn that there are no funds to help them stay warm or cool off.

Individuals who have taken advantage of the Centers for Disease Control’s anti-flu program will learn that as of Tuesday the program is no longer operating.

And some individuals who rely on Federal-extended unemployment benefits may find out that their unemployment benefits have been discontinued until the federal government is operating again, and they have no access to financial assistance.

Some impacts will be felt in less direct, but equally important ways.  Meat and other food inspections will be curtailed, threatening the nation’s food supply.

Schools will continue to receive funding for major programs like Title I and special education, but assistance for many other education programs will dry up and with that the programs may be forced to shut down.

And oversight of mines and workplaces will be reduced, impacting the local workforce.

As a result of this manufactured crisis, the safety, health, nutrition, and education of residents across the country is likely to be impacted, and the longer this Federal shutdown goes on the more likely it is to impact each and every one of our nation’s residents.

Please contact your Representative today by phone, email or even twitter, and let them know that you support the passage of a clean continuing resolution for fiscal year 2014. Cities can’t afford this sideshow.

About the author: Neil Bomberg is NLC’s Program Director for Human Development. Through Federal Advocacy, he lobbies on behalf of cities around education, workforce development, health care, welfare, and pensions. Follow Neil on Twitter at @neilbomberg and elsewhere at NLC.org.

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