Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

What does the government shutdown mean for Washington state?

US Capitol

By Photo Phiend via Flickr

For many in Washington, Monday was the last day at work for the unforeseeable future. Almost 50,000 federal employees in Washington have been indefinitely furloughed due to the Republican government shutdown by GOP extremists bent on defunding the Affordable Care Act.

The sad (and frustrating) irony ?

The government shutdown defunds the salaries and operations of over half of the 2 million federal civilian employees and their agencies, but the shutdown has absolutely no impact on the implementation of the ACA.

The cuts will run deep for Washington. Eighty-two percent of the union members from the army Corps of Engineers and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will be furloughed. All national parks and federal museums are closed, but the federal, interstate highways- like I-5 in Washington-used for transportation will be kept open. Governor Inslee announced that layoffs are possible at the Washington Employment Security Department, which receives 90 percent of its funding from the federal government. The agency issued a warning that unemployment checks may stop being issued after Friday if the shutdown continues.

Retroactive pay for furloughed employees is still in question. The Department of Veteran Affairs has enough funding for only two more weeks of disability claims and pension payments. Food stamps will continued to be issued, but the Special Supplemental Nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) only has enough funding to operate for nine more days.

Here in Washington, WIC reaches over 195,000 women, infants, and children in 205 clinics across the state each month. That’s one third of pregnant women in our state, almost half of all babies born, and one quarter of children under five who receive nutrition-rich foods and other vital help from WIC. We’re talking baby food. Breast feeding assistance. Fruits and vegetables and milk and protein vouchers. [The Stranger]

But wait, there’s more.

U.S. representatives and senators will still be receiving their next paychecks. Washington Representatives, Suzan DelBene (D-1), Derek Kilmer (D-6), Denny Heck (D-10), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-5) and other federal representatives have all pledged to either refuse their salary or donate it so long as federal employees are not being paid.

For Washington military personal, troops will receive their paychecks thanks to an emergency bill passed last weekend. However, civilian employees at Joint Base Lewis McChord could still see up to 10,000 lost jobs if their positions are considered “non-essential for the health and safety of residents on base, or if they are not supporting units that are deployed overseas”.

So in a partial government shutdown, what stays open?

Postal services, unemployment and Social Security benefits and food stamps will continue operations while veteran hospitals will stay open. For Washington’s Head Start, a federally funded pre-K program providing high quality early learning and support services to children living in poverty, they have their funding until November 1st. Katy Warren, Professional Development Manager, shared, “We’re lucky here. In other regions, they are having to send hundreds of kids homes this week because their grants were due today…about 19,000-20,000 nationally. We’ve already had to cut 750 kids due to the sequester earlier this year that were part of the 57,000 kids nationally.”

For most families with children in Head Start, getting “sent home” isn’t even an option with parents working full-time and likely unable to afford childcare at such short notice.

The shutdown will cost U.S. taxpayers $300 million-a day. Rep. David Scott (D-GA) perhaps said it best:

Your hate for this president is coming before your love of this country. Because if you love this country you would not be closing it down.

Written by EOI Intern Elissa Goss

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