Government Shutdown Trickles Down to Tragedy

 

I worry about 800,000 government workers who have had their livelihoods stolen and clutch their chests as they lie awake in bed at night trying to figure out how to pay the rent, the gas bill, for groceries, and for medication. This is the direct and most understood effect of holding the American people hostage with this shut down, but it is far from the only terrible impact.

Philadelphia has a 26% poverty rate, one of the highest in the nation. Of that 26%, nearly half (12.2%) are living in deep poverty with incomes below 50% of the federal poverty limit. Even before the shutdown, people were struggling to make it day by day.

Each hour of this shutdown makes it harder and harder for the nearly 10 million people who live in HUD-assisted housing – some of our country’s most vulnerable people including low-income families, people with disabilities, veterans, and the elderly – to avoid eviction. The government portion of those rent payments is critical. With HUD’s offices closed, there is no money flowing.

Pathways has two HUD renewal contracts affecting 130 apartment units that were due to be signed this month. Beginning February 1st, we will need to find almost $100,000 each month that the government shutdown continues to ensure that these marginalized, formerly homeless people remain in their homes.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) wasn’t reauthorized before the shutdown, so it has expired. Many domestic violence programs receive funding from Office of Violence Against Women under VAWA. That office is not processing payment requests. As the shutdown persists, providers will find it challenging to continue offering domestic violence crisis services and we risk the safety of women and children. We worry for our partner agencies like Women Against Abuse and their ability to maintain lifesaving services in the coming months.

People who rely on SNAP benefits (food stamps) received an early disbursement to carry them through February, but what happens on March 1st? Evan with SNAP benefits, far too many people are hungry in America and the organizations fighting hunger and food scarcity are stretched to the limits. Is starving America’s children part of our new political reality?

I’ve read hundreds of heart wrenching but avoidable tragedies happening right now because of this political folly. People are suffering and the suffering is deep, widespread, and real. Wherever we fall on the political spectrum, we all must agree that punishing the poor is not the way to make America great again.

Remember, the greatness of a nation is judged by how it treats its weakest member. 

Christine Simiriglia

President & CEO

 

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