Advocates Fret About Effects of Government Shutdown

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WASHINGTON – Most youth programs could continue operating through the short-term, but an extended government shutdown could have a much greater impact, say advocates in the field.

“Most youth programs have experienced some cuts due to sequestration, on top of other federal cuts, since 2010,” Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs, said in an email.  

“All of that has meant most [youth programs] cannot come close to meeting the need for youth services in their community.” 

“If they had reserves in the past to get through the crisis of a government shutdown, those reserves have probably been used to get through the last few years,” Weinstein added.  

“Now, youth-service providers face complete uncertainty about when they will next get paid, and the young people who need services are pawns in a cynical game extremists in the House are playing.” 

But Weinstein, along with Bruce Lesley, the president of the child-advocacy group First Focus, noted the effect on youth programs could be determined largely by their funding cycles. 

For instance, those scheduled to receive federal funds at the beginning of the fiscal year, which starts Tuesday, may struggle to continue operating during an extended shutdown.

That could mean some youth programs would be forced to close their doors, leaving parents struggling to find care alternatives for their children.

“So [a shutdown] could leave a lot of moms and dads out in the cold in terms of care and require them to stay home or find alternative care,” Irv Katz, president of the Washington-based National Human Services Assembly, told Youth Today.

Among federal programs, the Women, Infants and Children program, the nutrition safety net for millions of mothers and babies, could see its federal funding immediately halted with the government shutdown.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a contingency plan that if there’s a shutdown, “no additional federal funds would be available to support the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children clinical services, food benefits and administrative costs.” 

The department said other emergency nutrition programs also could see federal funding cut off in the event of a government shutdown.

States might have funds to continue serving WIC recipients for perhaps a week, but probably not longer than that, the USDA said.

The WIC program appears to be one of the programs that would be most directly affected by a government shutdown, which began at midnight after Congress failed to reach a deal.

But advocates said potential sequester spending cuts overshadow the shutdown in terms of the potential impact on youth programs.

Speaking of the Capitol Hill showdown, Stephen Clermont, research and policy director at the advocacy group Every Child Matters, told Youth Today, “It’s sort of amazing that it’s gotten this far, but it’s still avoiding a lot bigger issues out there as they relate to funding for kids’ programs.

“We’re still very concerned about the sequestration and its impact. I mean, it was never designed to be long-term policy but that somehow has become the default … and that’s the real problem.”

 

Photo: President Barack Obama delivers a statement on the budget, a possible U.S. government shutdown and foreign policy at the White House in Washington D.C., Friday, September 27, 2013. (Michael Reynolds/Pool/Abaca Press/MCT)