Making Justice Real

The Official Blog of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia

How A Government Shutdown Hurts Low-Wage Employees

With the federal government under a shut down today, much of the focus has remained fixed on the political battles, spin, and determining “winners” and “losers.” But there are very real human costs here that we cannot overlook. Legal Aid stands with members of immigrant communities whose lives continue to be in limbo, even with today’s short-term spending bill. We also want to take a moment to acknowledge further populations that are affected negatively by federal dysfunction.

There are thousands of low-wage workers here in the Washington area whose livelihoods are tied to the work of federal agencies and who live paycheck to paycheck. For low-income federal employees, a delayed paycheck could mean falling behind on bills or not being able to put food on the table. For low-wage federal contractors – the janitors, security guards, and cafeteria workers who work in federal buildings – the shutdown could mean losing their paychecks altogether.

And for families that rely on government-funded programs including low-income, military, and veteran families, the shutdown means losing access to critical programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — also known as food stamps — child nutrition programs at school, and other childcare, housing, and education services.

Despite passage of a short-term spending bill that is expected to reopen the government today, the possibility of another impasse — and another shutdown — in three weeks (February 8) still looms. With up to 3.2 million people in the federal workforce, the Washington region has the largest concentration of federal employees and contractors in the country who are most likely to be hurt by another possible shutdown. With large, vibrant, immigrant communities from all over the world, our friends, families, and neighbors remain under attack. And for those who need access to federal benefits, there is much at stake. We hope the politicians responsible will remember that while they will not be affected by this continued wrangling, there are hundreds of thousands of people who will be.

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