CHN’s Human Needs Watch: Tracking Hardship, September 26, 2023


September 26, 2023

September 26, 2023  

The shutdown and deep cuts twin-threat edition. A small group of House Republicans want extreme cuts and items from the right-wing wish list in federal spending bills, whether full-year or short-term. Counting today, there are 5 calendar days before the end of federal fiscal year, and if it’s up to the extremists, there will be a shutdown. If Speaker McCarthy would allow a stopgap spending bill that would be acceptable on a bipartisan basis to come to the floor, it would pass. But so far he is trying for a Republican bill, and so he – and the nation – are being held hostage. The twin threats before us are a (1) shutdown that, if it lasts longer than a few days, will slow or stop services, hurt workers, and threaten the economy and (2) ever harsher cuts and restrictions demanded as the price of keeping the government open.   

House Republicans tried to pass a one-month temporary spending bill but even though it cut domestic appropriations back to FY 2022 levels (meaning, over an 8 percent cut to human needs and other investments) and would strip humanitarian protections for migrants, it was not harsh enough for the extremists. Now McCarthy is trying to win them over by putting some full-year appropriations bills on the floor with even more extreme cuts – see examples below. Such bills will die in the Senate, so the shutdown gets closer. 

This shutdown would harm our nation’s overall economy, the financial security of individuals and families, government efficiency, and the public’s access to needed services by delaying or interrupt services to millions. It would disrupt the jobs of over a million federal workers and overall make it harder for people to put food on the table, a roof over their heads, and stay safe and healthy. The shutdown would affect employees of federal contractors even more acutely – unlike workers directly employed by the federal government, they do not receive back pay. Their ranks include security guards, carpenters, electricians, cafeteria workers, cleaning crews, and more. Overall, a shutdown would make vulnerable communities including people of color more at risk and result in their disproportionate harm. 

It is time for all of us to tell Congress – regardless of party affiliation, our elected representatives must stand up to the right-wing extremists, keep government running, and avoid deep cuts to programs we need. 

Click here to write your Representative. 

7 million 

Nearly 7 million infants, young children and mothers would stop getting WIC nutrition aid in a prolonged government shutdown, according to Agriculture Secretary Vilsack. Some federal and state funds could keep WIC going for about a week, Vilsack said. (Some WIC programs may have funds to continue for some period beyond a week.) If a shutdown lasted longer, all benefits would stop. Tweet this.



If Congress keeps the government open but does not add more money for WIC, 600,000 women and young children would be waitlisted for WIC’s nutrition assistance, according to the National WIC Association. Tweet this.


1.3 million 

The House GOP is considering three amendments to the Agriculture appropriations bill that would take SNAP away from 1.3 million Americans. Among those affected would be veterans, individuals experiencing homelessness, young adults transitioning from foster care, and people who live in areas with relatively high unemployment. Tweet this.


30 days 

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) can only pay benefits to its more than 40 million beneficiaries for 30 days after the government shuts down. In 2019, USDA sent out benefits early to avoid the deadline, but would not have been able to make the next payment. Tweet this.



During one point in the record-breaking 2018-19 partial government shutdown, 420,000 federal workers were deemed essential and forced to work without pay. Another 380,000 federal workers were furloughed without pay. In all, 800,000 federal workers went without pay for five weeks. Tweet this.


$9 billion 

During the 2018-19 shutdown, federal workers missed out on $9 billion in pay. Although they later received back pay, the gap damaged the nation’s economy and caused undue hardship. 


-$3 billion 

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the five-week shutdown reduced the level of GDP growth by 0.1% in the fourth quarter of 2018 ($3 billion in 2019 dollars) and by 0.2% in the first quarter of 2019 ($8 billion). But while the rebound in federal spending after the shutdown ended boosted GDP, there was still a loss of $3 billion in foregone economic activity that was not recovered in 2019.



Speaker McCarthy tried to get his caucus to support a stop-gap spending bill that would cut 110,000 kids from Head Start, 65,000 kids from child care, and 60,000 seniors from nutrition assistance programs such as Meals on Wheels. But that wasn’t harsh enough for the handful of extremists, so the bill died.



The temporary spending bill that wasn’t harsh enough for the extremists would have cut home heating and cooling assistance (LIHEAP) by a whopping 65%. More than 5 million low-income households would lose their home heating or cooling benefits or have their benefits cut by hundreds of dollars 



The new Agriculture appropriations bill the GOP will try to pass on the House floor this week cuts spending for most programs by 41% below last year’s levels, the lowest it has been since 2001. It cuts rural development and energy funding and international food aid, in addition to previously proposed WIC cuts. These deeper cuts are intended to gain the support of the extremists.



During the 2018-2019 shutdown, 86,000 immigration court hearings were canceled, worsening a huge case backlog (now 1.3 million cases).



The number of households – including 20,000 veterans and 90,000 seniors – that could lose housing vouchers, putting them at greater risk of homelessness, as proposed in the stopgap spending bill that wasn’t harsh enough for the House extremists.