The Government Shutdown Screws Over the Poor

While I touched on the government shutdown in last week’s post, I felt that it was really important this week to dedicate a full post to the government shutdown. The task of dedicating a post to the shutdown, admittedly, was tremendously difficult because there are just so many injustices surrounding the whole debacle. There are environmental consequences of trash piling up in parks. There are national security consequences, as organizations responsible for our safety and security aren’t being paid (with all the stress, decrease in morale, and subsequent compromising of national security which comes along with the shutdown).[1] There are a lot of individuals and groups who get hurt by the shutdown.

When studying the shutdown a little more, it became quite obvious who I should focus on for this post: the poor. Why? Because if we’re honest with ourselves, those who are screwed over the most by this shutdown are the poor, whether we like to admit it or not.

For starters, government workers who are struggling to make ends meet already may find themselves without a home. This USA Today article from Christmas Day featured many a government worker (or many a government worker’s families) expressing anxiety about a potential inability to pay for basic living expenses. One of these workers even expressed anxiety about potential eviction if the government doesn’t open and back pay doesn’t kick in quickly. Members of Congress and the President will continue to get paid, but some poor government workers may end up homeless if this shutdown continues. The government shutdown screws over poor government workers who are living from paycheck to paycheck.

Additionally, tax refunds may be delayed as a result of the government shutdown.[2] The reason for this is that, as long as the government is shut down, tax refunds will not be issued at all. For people who are well off, these refunds may not be a big deal. But for people who are poor and who are living from paycheck to paycheck, it is a huge deal and it may be the difference between being able to afford the basics and not being able to afford the basics. The government shutdown screws over poor people for whom a tax refund may make a difference.

Finally, many food benefits are in danger as a result of the government shutdown, and additional food benefits will be endangered if the government shutdown drags on. For example, WIC, which is a nutrition program to help food-stressed and at-risk women and children, has already run out of funding, and it is left to local and state governments to cover for what the federal government can’t do. The Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which is a food program for low-income senior citizens, has suffered the same fate as WIC. If the shutdown drags on to the end of January, funding will run out for food stamps. If the shutdown drags into February, funding will run out for various child nutrition programs; this will endanger school breakfast, school lunch, summer food service, and other special programs.[3] The government shutdown royally screws over poor, food-stressed families.

Some people may not be affected severely by the government shutdown. But millions are already being severely affected by the shutdown, and the consequences will become significantly more dire for those affected the longer this shutdown goes. Most of all, though, it’s the poor who are getting screwed over the most by the incompetence in Washington, D.C.


[1] And to think that this shutdown was in the name of a “national security” issue—in other words, a border wall. Ironic, isn’t it?

[2] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/government-shutdown-delay-irs-tax-filing-and-refund-brings-chaos-just-before-tax-filing-season/

[3] https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2018/12/29/usda-updates-available-functions-during-lapse-funding