• Jennifer Blemur

5 Ways the Shutdown is Impacting Women and Families

Updated: Feb 26


This past Friday was the first payday of the year, but for federal employees and contractors, it was not. There are approximately 800,000 federal employees affected by the partial government shutdown, with 420,000 working without pay and 380,000 furloughed. The average employee’s weekly take-home pay is about $500, which can mean the difference between being able to pay student loans, rent, groceries, car payments, and a host of other bills.

The shutdown adversely affects women and families in the following ways:

1. Domestic Violence Shelters Struggling to Continue Services

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CD), 1 in 4 women in the United States will experience intimate partner violence. Domestic violence shelters offer escape for these women and their children, where they can receive medical attention, emergency housing, and other social services. Many of these shelters receive money from the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Victims of Crime Act Fund which are administered through the Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ is partially closed. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which also provides funding to shelters, has furloughed 95 percent of its staff. Without funding, many of these shelters will be scrambling to keep their doors open the longer the shutdown persists.

2. Expectant Parents Will Be Unable to Take Paid Leave

Federal employees are not eligible for paid parental leave. However, most are covered under the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 which provides unpaidleave. To get around this, many substitute their paid annual leave with that time to take care of a new child or recover from labor. With the government shutdown, paid time off is canceled. With no access to paid time leave until after the government shutdown, expectant parents will have to find alternative ways to meet their needs.

3. Uncertainty for Those Using Housing Assistance Programs

Speaking of HUD, HUD recently sent 1,500 letters to landlords urging them not to evict individuals who are using HUD housing assistance programs, including Section 8 vouchers, to pay their rent. For those living in large housing properties there is more time, but for those living in smaller units owned by private landlords, time may run out. Additionally, the shutdown also prevents mandatory health and safety inspections from being completed in public housing, which impacts low-income families and senior citizens.

4. Women Using Social Services Might Need to Look to Other Sources

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), one of several agencies unfunded due to the shutdown, administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps, and the Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) program, which provides “federal grants to States for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.” Both programs are funded through February; however, USDA has indicated that states and localities should try to supplement funding with resources they can. In 2017, 42 million people received SNAP benefits with more than 68 percent of those participants being families with children.

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a federal block grant program states use to confer benefits and services to low-income families with children. States are also required to contribute state funds (maintenance of effort funds) to their TANF programs. In September 2017, 2.5 million children were the recipients of TANF or MOE-funded assistance. TANF, similarly, is funded through February but states are concerned that the longer the shutdown lasts the higher the likelihood funds will run out to support it.

5. Women Small Business Owners are at a Standstill The number of women-owned businesses has grown 3,000 percent since 1972 according to a report commissioned by American Express. Women started an average of 1,821 new businesses per day in the U.S. between 2017 and 2018, with businesses owned by women of color accounting for 47 percent of all women-owned businesses. As small business owners, many acquire capital through the Small Business Administration (SBA). Because of the shutdown, the SBA is not processing small business loans which means small business owners can’t complete their loans to launch their businesses. Additionally, for businesses that are in federally-owned buildings or serve mostly federal workers, in particular, those in the service industry will have to find a way to recover their losses.

Many members of Congress have called on the President to end the shutdown and work with Congress. The longer it lasts the harder it will be for Americans, especially women and children, to bounce back and recoup. Women, take the opportunity to tell your representatives and the President that you need to get back to work — livelihoods depend on it.


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