Jan 18, 2019

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STATEMENT: Stop the Shutdown

by | Jan 18, 2019

What began as political theater four weeks ago has quickly devolved into a national disaster with the health and financial security of millions of Americans — including hundreds of thousands of Coloradans – at stake.

It is time to stop playing games with the government, the American people and the U.S. economy.

Already, this shutdown is the longest in U.S. history, with no end in sight. Roughly 800,000 federal employees – and hundreds of thousands of federal contractors and support staff – have missed paychecks since the shutdown began on Dec. 22. More than 420,000 are required to work without pay and recently, the president demanded that 50,000 more people return to work without pay. Many of these workers receive low to middling wages ranging from $25,000 to $38,000 a year– an amount that’s well under the Self-Sufficiency Standard for most families in Colorado. They have no financial cushion on which to draw and the consequences of paying bills late, missing a mortgage, loan or rent payment, delaying medical expenses and taking other steps to minimize their expenses can have devastating and enduring consequences. Guaranteeing back pay when the shutdown ends will not unwind the consequences of a hit to your credit rating or paying high interest rates on a credit card bill.

The idea that the TSA agents who keep our airways safe from terrorism should “work for free” until the president and Congress come to an agreement over a wall is appalling and disregards the importance of their jobs and the critical role of government. Unfortunately, federal contractors — many of whom are low-wage workers – will never be paid for their forced leave.

The economic impact of this shutdown is already rippling through the economy as tourists stay home, federal workers and contractors stop spending money in their communities and businesses that need federal services to operate are stymied.

Apart from the devastating effect on civil servants, this unnecessary crisis has fueled uncertainty among low-wage workers and families that rely on human service programs – disproportionately hurting those with children, people with disabilities and seniors.

The lapse in funding for USDA programs could endanger nutrition programs that provide food for millions of Americans. While SNAP benefits are guaranteed through the end of February, the program faces substantial cuts if the shutdown continues. Meanwhile, the 40 million people served by the program are living under the uncertainty of not knowing how long they can keep food on the table. By the way, the Center for American Progress estimated in 2015 that nearly 11,500 jobs are lost for every $1 billion in cuts in SNAP due to the economic ripples of reduced food purchases. Funding streams for WIC (which provides nutrition for pregnant and new mothers and their children), public housing for low-income families and free school lunch programs are similarly threatened.

In Colorado, nearly 450,000 SNAP recipients and 85,000 WIC recipients are at risk from the shutdown, according to figures from the Center for American Progress. If the shutdown continues through March, over 29,000 Coloradans receiving Housing Choice Vouchers could face eviction due to unpaid rent. The Center notes that tribal communities have been hit hard because federal support services and jobs make up a significant share of the communities’ economies that sustain their health care, housing, education, child care and economic development services. Nearly 13,000 Coloradans reside on tribal lands.

Urge your Congressional representatives to reach a solution – without succumbing to the president’s demands for an unnecessary and ineffective border wall. Take time to thank Sen. Cory Gardner for breaking with his party by calling on Congress to end the shutdown and negotiate border security separately. Keep the pressure on to end to this shameful chapter of American history by posting your objections on social media, sharing this statement, even writing or calling The White House.

Clearly, this stalemate has already damaged and divided the country and faith in government. The hemorrhaging needs to stop now.

– By Bob Mook

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