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Saturday, October 22, 2016

The “non-essential” programs that are currently unfunded due to the shutdown are in fact essential for many women and children.

The GOP likes to say the war on women is a myth. But the government shutdown, now in its 11th day, is just the latest evidence that it is indeed alive and well. It should be no surprise that women are among those hurt most by the closure, which, predictably, is in part a reaction to the benefits that the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature achievement, guarantees women, as we wrote last week.

From the nation’s elite institutions to the oft-neglected rural areas of this country, women and their families are caught in the middle of a political impasse that has furloughed an estimated 800,000 government workers, threatens to upend the global economy, and has left critical government programs and services scrambling to secure emergency funds in order to serve America’s most vulnerable populations.

The shutdown threatens a number of programs and funding streams, including domestic violence shelters and service centers; Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); the Woman, Infants, and Children Program (WIC); School Lunch; Head Start; and Title IX investigations of sexual assault on college campuses. This will have a serious impact on the health, physical safety, food security, and economic stability of women and their families.

Physical Safety

As Bryce Covert wrote last week, funds for domestic violence programs designated under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) have been suspended since October 4. (It should be no surprise that many of the House members leading the shutdown also voted against VAWA itself earlier this year.)

Small centers without access to independent funding – those that serve women with the fewest options – will only be able to weather the storm for so long. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and the ensuing economic downturn, violence against women has been on the rise, with eight out of 10 shelters reporting increases in the number of women seeking help, and 74 percent of domestic violence victims staying in unsafe situations because of economic insecurity.  Demand for these services is increasing, while funding is being cut from every source. Nearly four out of five of domestic violence service providers have reported decreases in government funding over the past five years, and since October 1, many have closed their doors completely or limited their services.

The shutdown is also affecting the safety of women on college and university campuses across the country. An increasing number of institutions are under investigation for ineffective handling of sexual assault cases adjudicated under Title IX.

And with the shutdown, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has suspended investigations into alleged violations and has halted campus visits necessary for holding institutions accountable.

Food Security

The shutdown threatens the food assistance on which millions of America’s most vulnerable women and children rely. At this point, federal funding for TANF, WIC, and school lunches has been suspended. State and USDA reserve funds are being reallocated so that states can continue to provide these essential services, but they will only be able to function with these limited resources for a short time.

States are shouldering the burden to keep TANF running while the government is shuttered, but last week, 5,200 eligible families in Arizona did not receive their monthly check. Thus far Arizona has been the only state to deny this important benefit for families in need, but every day the program is more strained.

WIC, the federal program that most crucially provides formula and breastfeeding assistance for mothers in need, has also been left in the lurch. On Tuesday, officials announced that no additional WIC vouchers would be issued in the state of North Carolina, where approximately 264,000 women rely on the program. In Utah, the WIC program shut its doors and only reopened four days later because the USDA provided a $2.5 million emergency grant. Other centers are sure to face the same challenges so long as workers are furloughed and grants are on hold.

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    It’s really sad that all these programs are unfunded while all of this Do Nothing Congress continues to recieve their “essential paychecks” for working less than part time and accomplishing nothing. Anyone that is disabled, retired, or female that votes Repukelican is a complete idiot.

    • wesley rasmussen

      Don’t forget the other people the GGTP is after. I know some students who are losing their assistance, seniors who stand to lose Medicare ( paid for programs, NOT

    • wesley rasmussen

      keyboard error up there. sorry. Not entitlements. I even know a Lesbian woman, who is caregiver to a young teen relative, who is singing the praises for Tea Party politics, even though she and others like her are in the crosshairs of the Religious Right, and the current POTUS is the one who is championing her way of life. Kinda strange, isn’t it? And, yes, I constnatly feel like she has idiocy in her Texas genes…

      • AMADAL

        I hear you loud and clear. The only people stupider (is that even a word?) than people in need voting Repukelican are lesbians and gays that vote Repukelican. Log Cabin Repukes are the worst. Funny that you mention Texas—at least there are some of us down here with sense that are trying to return this state to the great blue state it once was.

  • Allan Richardson

    “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. Therefore send not to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” — John Donne, Meditations

  • latebloomingrandma

    All the protestors outside Planned Parenthood clinics should be hit up for generous donations toward the WIC program in their states.

  • tax payer

    Aren’t they ( Still Getting ) their Free Food courtesy of the tax payers?