(news) shutdown

Photo Courtesy of Pete Souza/White House

The United States government shutdown on Tuesday, October 1, following the inability of the House and Senate to agree on a working budget to fund the government.

“I think the government shutdown is a strategy that the Republicans are using to get what they want, which is to destroy the Affordable Care Act,” said Matt Chandler, a student at UTSA. “They’re doing this by shutting down the entire government and piecemealing it back together until they reach services they wish to limit. I think they’re definitely satisfying their base,”

If Congress does not end the government shut down and raise the debt ceiling by Oct. 17, the Federal Government will default on its loans, potentially crippling the economy.

Some government officials have tried to downplay the effects of the government shut down. Fox News coined the term “slim-down,” to refer to the shutdown, but the shutdown has had dire effects on underprivileged Americans and government workers, some of whom are San Antonio residents.

Due to the government shut-down, domestic violence programs in San Antonio have had to cut back on their services to victims of domestic violence because federal funds can no longer be drawn from the Violence Against Women Act. These Domestic Violence programs had already seen drastic cuts prior to and during the sequestration. Other programs, like Legal Assistance for Victims grant programs, Grants to Encourage Arrest Policies and Enforcement of Protection Orders, will also see their funding dwindle.

San Antonio mothers living near or below the poverty line who depend on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) will be struggling to find extra money for food by the end of the month. As of Oct. 31, WIC programs will have exhausted state reserves and emergency funds if the federal government remains shutdown.

House Republicans sponsored a bill (H J Res 75) on Friday, Oct. 4, that would allow some funds to be allocated to WIC to keep it running past the end of the month, but The WIC Association called this action “a cynical ploy to use low-income nutritionally at-risk mothers and young children as political pawns for political ends.”

“There are health consequences when mothers cannot provide food and nutrition for their kids,” said Rev. Glenn Greenaway in an interview with Forbes about the defunding of WIC programs nationwide.

WIC programs in San Antonio have helped improve infant-feeding practices, reduced premature births, reduced fetal death rate, reduced long-term medical expenses, and improved cognitive development of babies in the program.

Marta Pelaez is the president of The Family Violence and Prevention Services of San Antonio. “The shutdown is impacting the women and children that we help,” said Pelaez. “If the shutdown continues, it would affect us as an organization even more because we do receive federal funding from other federal legislatures outside the Violence Against Women Act, like the Victims of Crime Act Formula Grants.

“The last thing people experiencing the level of crisis these families receive is another layer of instability that this shutdown will cause,” added Pelaez.

After Oct. 1, the U.S. Small Business Administration’s processing offices shut down, so small businesses in San Antonio will no longer be able to collect federal loans to help them start up or function, and any new SBA loans submitted after Oct. 1 will be kept in a queue.

Earlier this year, an independent study by four university professors that used data from micro lender Accion Texas Inc, showed that startups that receive (federal) loans are more likely to survive, achieve higher revenue and create more jobs.

The shutdown could slow the growth of small businesses, which are an integral part of San Antonio’s economy.

Most of the more than 23,000 civilian defense employees in San Antonio are now currently furloughed due to the government shut down, a potential danger to the city’s economy.

“Any time you send more than 50 percent of your fulltime force home, there will be a negative impact on operations,” said Lt. Col. Joanne E. Macgregor, state public affairs officer. “This shutdown is causing us to postpone unit training, force many key leaders to stay home on furlough, and take our service members of vital skill qualification jobs.”

There will also be delays in accessing community development block grants by the city because some of the required paperwork needs to be federally approved, and most federal workers have been furloughed.

The delays in accessing community block grants mean delays in commencing reconstruction or renovation of public infrastructure, housing and other public services in San Antonio.

In the past week, 30 furloughed federal government workers in San Antonio protested outside U.S Senator Ted Cruz’s office to show their concern for the shutdown and the ways it was affecting their livelihoods.

In separate interviews for Fronteras and KSAT News, Elsa Martinez and Lola Bradshaw, two protesters at Senator Cruz’s office, explained their frustrations on being furloughed once again following a recent March sequester furlough over the budget ceiling.

Most of the programs being hit the hardest by the government shutdown are already struggling for funding after 2010 budget cuts. The economically underprivileged are feeling the brunt of congressional oversight.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz and Democratic San Antonio Representatives Joaquín Castro, Henry Cuellar and Pete Gallego have pledged to donate their salary to charity.

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