5 Ways the Shutdown is Impacting Women and Families

Updated: Feb 26, 2020


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 tha