Government shutdown continues at expense of working class

Courtesy of REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

01/24/2019

By Ollie Gratzinger | Opinions Editor

The duration of the nation’s longest government shutdown has surpassed the one-month mark, and as the crisis comes to a boil, almost everyone is starting to feel the heat.

Federal workers, either furloughed or working without pay, are struggling to make ends meet. With rent or mortgage bills, car payments, medical fees, childcare costs and a long list of other expenses and no income to allocate out to all life’s necessities, countless workers are left wondering where even their next meal will be coming from.

It’s an unsettling social shortcoming that there aren’t governmental fail safes in place to protect those who are furloughed from loss and financial desolation. Employees working without pay are unable to file for unemployment benefits because they’re still technically employed. While furloughed employees can collect unemployment, they’ll have to repay any unemployment money collected once the government reopens and they receive their back pay. Plus, the program varies from state to state, and many folks attempting to file are faced with wait times up to or surpassing a month. Or, worse yet, they’re being denied because there isn’t anyone in government to verify their employment, according to CBS News.

Now This News released a short informative video on Jan. 19, highlighting the difficulties faced by a few individuals impacted most directly by the shutdown. Among them, a tearful woman facing eviction, a mother who is struggling to buy groceries for her children and a father forced to pull his daughter out of cheerleading because he could no longer pay for her to be part of the organization.

It isn’t even the president’s disregard for the plight of his country’s working class that stands out as most disturbing. Rather, it’s his willingness to use them as a shameless bargaining chip, a means to attaining his own political ends. Cast into sudden and indefinite poverty, many will go without food. Many will go without medication. Many could even lose their homes or apartments, and with it, their very way of life.

At this point, the crisis has surpassed partisan debate. It has quickly become a human rights issue. Trump is so focused on building a wall to supposedly protect the country that he’s failing to realize he and his party have become the most direct and explicit threat to the working class.

As the shutdown drags on, it isn’t only impacting federal workers and contractors. Those who benefit from government assistance such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) may find themselves without food stamps, should the shutdown continue. February benefits have been sent out early, by Jan. 20, rather than on their usual date, Feb. 1, in order to “ensure that the money is available,” according to Business Insider.

But as for March, it is unlikely that the money will be there to fund the program if the government doesn’t reopen by then. With that being said, SNAP recipients will likely not receive a payment after this week’s until the shutdown ends.

Likewise, schools around the country are faced with the prospect of running out of food for school lunches. Even though school lunch programs are funded quarterly, and therefore will be paid for through March, Trump’s willingness to let the shutdown continue for “months or even years” has cast many schools into conservation mode. Students will no longer receive fresh produce, with the exception of elementary schools that are part of the Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Program (FFVP). Being federally assisted as well, the FFVP will decrease to two days per week. Bottled water and juice will only be offered until the current inventory runs out.

It seems almost unthinkable that in a developed country like the U.S., impoverished school districts would be forced to ration food supplies to hungry children, many of whom may face worsened food insecurity at home due to the uncertain future of SNAP. But the unthinkable has happened. Is this the “greatness” that Trump had in mind when he promised to “Make America Great Again?”

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