Tuesday, January 15, 2019
Government Shutdown: A Human Rights Disaster
As always, the most vulnerable among us bear the brunt of unreasonable and insensitive government policy. The government shutdown is no different. No surprise that when the President decided to shutdown government agencies as political leverage, he gave no thought to the impact on America's working class and those even more vulnerable economically.
The Indian Health Service has stopped receiving federal funds. Indigenous women have the highest rate of uninsured in this country and over 1 million Indian women and Alaska native women rely upon IHS for care. While not having an immediate fiscal impact, the Violence Against Women Act was left unauthorized and unfunded due to the shutdown. Those who provide services to those who have experienced abuse may have sufficient funds from prior grants to operate in the near future, funding in the long term is not likely if the government continues to be closed. SNAP (special nutritional assistance program) and WIC (the supplemental nutritional program for women, infants and children) programs are currently providing benefits through state and local sources, but those funding sources cannot be relied upon in the long term.
Those who are federally incarcerated have seen immediate impacts on their well-being. In total, half of the 36,000 Bureau of Prison employees have been furloughed. The Marshall Project reports that in at least one prison family visits have been canceled. Those providing therapeutic services have been furloughed as "non-essential". Those awaiting compassionate release must wait longer because there is no one to review their applications. Prisoner commissaries are running low and not being re-stocked. And parts of the recently passed First Step Act will likely be postponed because those charged with implementing it are furloughed. Some prisoners may begin missing release dates.
Families of employees will suffer from the impact of sudden loss of income. Eviction and creditor lawsuits are likely to follow rapidly.
No doubt this shutdown will have long-term adverse economic impacts not only on unpaid workers, but systemically as well as those who turn to other employment take their skills and expertise with them.