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How Does the Government Shutdown Affect Kids?

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

A lot of the talk surrounding the current government shutdown has focused on bipartisan politics. But while the adults fight it out, kids are being left out. The impacts of the government shutdown are far-reaching and could potentially impair the health and happiness of children across the country. Take a look at some of the ways that the shutdown will impact kids.

Kids’ Health and Wellness

Food Safety

With Congress at impasse, government agencies can’t perform their most basic responsibilities sufficiently. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in the midst of a government shutdown, the “FDA will be unable to support the majority of its food safety, nutrition, and cosmetics activities,” which is likely to make some parents think twice about what they put on the dinner table during this period. (You can still keep tabs on the latest food and product recalls by checking Parents.com.)

New Patient Care

The National Institutes of Health is in a bind, currently unable to admit new patients, unless by the approval of the NIH director. This could halt life-saving medical research for children in need of serious medical care.

Flu Shots

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can’t support its seasonal influenza program, so the fate of flu vaccines administered by the CDC is up in the air. Not only is it a critical time to receive flu vaccinations for the whole family, but the flu is also especially dangerous for children, and can lead to various complications. Fortunately, it’s not too late to get your child vaccinated, and the CDC is far from the only provider.

Federal Grants

The Administration for Children and Families can’t go forth with quarterly formula grants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Child Care, the Social Services Block Grant, Refugee Programs, Child Welfare Services and the Community Service Block Grant programs, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This means that crucial programs can’t receive the funding they deserve based on predetermined criteria such as population size served, and consequently, many children could lose support in a number of welfare sectors.

Kids and Their Families   

Care for Moms and Small Children

Funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) will fall on the states. Federal funding that would have gone toward clinical services, food benefits, and administrative costs are stalled, which leaves low-income mothers who rely on WIC’s thousands of clinic sites without complete care. This is worrisome for the women who benefit from WIC’s health and nutrition support and the 53% of all infants born in the U.S. served by WIC.

Head Start

While only a handful of Head Start programs have been immediately affected by the shutdown, the future of the school-readiness program for low-income children and their families as a whole isn’t certain. As a program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Head Start faces more funding woes, as new discretionary grants for the program can’t be made. And the longer the shutdown looms, the less prepared kids in Head Start will be for school. For families who depend on Head Start for childcare, they will have to find temporary caretakers for their kids while moms and dads work.

Heating

With fall and winter around the corner, heating bills are bound to go up. But that’s not feasible for families who need the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to keep warm during the colder months. There’s already a chill in the air, and it’s sure to sting much worse should the shutdown continue, delaying funding for families left in the cold.

Government Workers

The government needs many more people to function than just those in Congress, and 800,000 government workers forced to stay at home are really feeling the pinch. Delayed pay means that families in government service will likely have to put a hold on spending for their children. Food, clothing and mortgages could all be derailed until the government starts up again.  And adding another layer of distress to families who have lost loved ones in active duty, the death benefits they receive will be delayed.

Kids’ Exploration

Museums

Because the turmoil is brewing in the nation’s capital, it makes sense that some establishments in the city would temporarily shutter. But sadly, many of the sites in Washington, D.C., that are closed are also some of the kid-friendliest, like the Smithsonian Institution, which includes 19 museums and galleries and the National Zoological Park. (But don’t worry — even though the panda cam has gone dark, the animals at the zoo will still be cared for.) Many private museums will stay open, but the Smithsonian Institution’s and national monuments’ free admission is why these places are accessible to families from all income levels.

National Landmarks

Whether you’re in Rock Creek Park or Yellowstone, you’ll have to pack up your picnic basket and your hiking boots because all national parks are off-limits. Even campers who were in the parks before the government shutdown must leave immediately. It’s especially a shame because fall is arguably the most beautiful time of the year to explore the country’s natural national treasures. Visitor centers at destinations such as the Statue of Liberty will also be denied entrance.

Image via Shutterstock 

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