Policy Resource

Babies Can’t Shut Down Their Development—Reopen the Government Now!

Oct 18, 2013

As the country awaits an end to the government shutdown now in its second week, families and program staff are anxiously contemplating the loss of critical services in a few days or weeks.

New infographic in English and Spanish

As the country awaits an end to the government shutdown now in its second week, families and program staff are anxiously contemplating the loss of critical services in a few days or weeks. The fragile funding arrangements keeping programs open now will crumble if the shutdown extends into next month. While programs such as WIC, Head Start/Early Head Start, child care, and TANF may have to shutter their doors, babies’ brains can’t take a similar hiatus. They keep developing regardless of whether essential supports are present.

Today, there is hope that a solution is in the works for both the shutdown and the debt ceiling crisis looming for next week. Negotiations sparked by a series of White House meetings over the past few days with key Members of Congress in both House and Senate continued through last night, with several plans swirling in the mix. Yet, ideas being offered for reopening the government remind us of the need to address the problems created by last January’s sequester. Weathering the shutdown does not mean programs aren’t still reeling from the sequester storm. That across-the-board cut has affected many programs for young children, including eliminating spaces for 57,000 children in Head Start and Early Head Start.

There are concerns that an agreement on the shutdown should not remove any chance of rolling back sequestration cuts or expose programs for children and families to even more drastic cuts in the next round of sequester slated for January 2014. The first step is to reopen the government, with no strings attached, removing the uncertainty for vulnerable families who look to government services to meet basic needs. Then, Congress and the President need to reach a fiscal solution that restores protection to the many and varied needs of children and families.

The urgency of ending the shutdown is clear. As we reported last week, in the case of a few programs, some states only had funds for about two weeks. And few programs are sustainable beyond the end of October. Thus, while federal, state, and local governments as well as private entities or individuals have all pitched in to cover services for October, major disruptions of benefits are likely if the shutdown stretches into November.

Infant-toddler advocates need to use calls and social media to continue pushing their Members of Congress to end the shutdown immediately. Babies don’t shut down their development just because the programs they need for support have to close. Congress needs to reopen the government, no strings attached, and restore stability to the lives of vulnerable babies and their families. Use our new infographic in English and Spanish to make this clear!

And now a recap of what we know. For some programs, you can learn more by scrolling down to our October 1 post.

Good Health

Affordable Care Act: No impact from the shutdown.

Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): No immediate impact for Medicaid, which has funds for the quarter. CHIP is funded separately, so no impact.

WIC: Funded through October. The WIC program, which provides nutritional supplements as well as breastfeeding support for women and young children, has been on a rollercoaster ride. As the federal program funds were shut off, some states reported having funds for only a few days while others could maintain services for a few weeks. At least one state had closed its offices to new clients. By the end of the week, however, things were looking up as the U.S. Department of Agriculture used a combination of contingency funds and unused funds from the previous budget year to keep all programs open to existing and new clients to the end of October. WIC families in North Carolina had a brief scare this week when the state announced it would not be issuing new vouchers, so clients that had not picked up October vouchers were out of luck. However, we understand that the state now has enough federal funding to stay open.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): Has funding through October.

Child and Adult Care Food Program: NEW UPDATE—While previously the Food and Nutrition Service had said there was enough funding for October, last Friday it announced that funding was available to the program for several months into FY 2014, removing the uncertainty about the ability to continue healthy meals and snacks for young children in child care.

Strong Families

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF): Outlook varies by state, with funding available for a few weeks in some up to a month or more in others. States can use funds left from prior years or their own funds (for which they can get reimbursement later) to continue their programs. How much they have available varies by state. Arizona had suspended payments to some recipients, but the Governor has now redirected funds to make up the difference. Some mandatory funding for the Child Care Development Fund is included in TANF and is similarly affected.

Child welfare: Foster care payments will continue, as funds are made available in advance. Other child welfare funding that pays for state child welfare services will not receive funding until appropriations for 2014 are enacted.

Home Visiting: The Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program has mandatory funding through 2014, so the program is not affected.

Housing: Families in public housing will not be affected immediately. Families receiving rental assistance will receive that support in October and most likely for November.

Positive Early Learning Experiences

Head Start and Early Head Start: No new grants will be made until 2014 funding is in place, but only programs whose grant period started in October were immediately affected by the shutdown—23 programs serving about 19,000 children. (However, these children are in addition to the more than 57,000 children who have already lost services for good because of the sequester.) Some programs affected by the shutdown were able to fall back on state or private funds, but as many as 12 programs had to close or make plans to do so. Just in the nick of time, two private philanthropists, Laura and John Arnold, offered up to $10 million to keep children in their classrooms. The funds are being administered through the National Head Start Association, which reports that all programs are now open. However, November would bring a much larger group of programs—serving an estimated 86,000 children in 157 programs across the country—face to face with the possibility of having to close their doors.

Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG): Discretionary funding for child care for 2014 would not be available until a funding measure passes. States can continue to use funding from prior years, if any is available, to serve children and families. So far, few effects on families receiving subsidies have been reported, but states are making clear that situation can’t continue if federal funds don’t start flowing soon.

Part C Early Intervention Program: No impact. Many education programs, including Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, receive their funding well in advance of their program or school year. Arkansas had shut down their program briefly before the status of federal funding was clarified.

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