What a Government Shutdown Means for Low-Income Children

To learn more about government benefits that protect children, check out From Welfare to Work: What the 1996 Welfare Reform Initiative has Meant for Children, by Erin Holland, available on Westlaw.

by Molly Thornton

In the weeks leading up to the government shutdown in January of 2018, President Trump issued a series of tweets in which he warned that a government shutdown would have a devastating effect on the nation’s military.[1] In reality, much of the Department of Defense would continue working during a shutdown, continuing “operations necessary for the safety of human life or the protection of property.”[2] In addition to exaggerating the effect of a government shutdown on the military, President Trump’s tweets completely ignored a group that is far more vulnerable to the effects of a shutdown than the military: low-income children.

When the federal government last shut down in 2013, the Republican-led House refused to pass an appropriations bill unless President Obama and the Democrat-led Senate would agree to a budget that eliminated funding for the Affordable Care Act.[3] Lasting a period of sixteen days, the shutdown had a significant negative impact on a number federally-funded programs on which low-income children and their families rely. One such example is the program Head Start,[4] which operates centers that prepare low-income children for success in Kindergarten.[5] Without funding to pay employees, Head Start centers across the country were forced to close for up to nine days, affecting over 6,300 low-income children and their families.[6]

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