The partial government shutdown reaches four weeks today, with no end in sight. Native American tribes are experiencing sharp cutbacks to health services, education, housing, child welfare, maintenance of tribal lands, and economic development. Domestic violence shelters across the country are cutting services for survivors because they can’t access the funding they would normally receive from the Department of Justice. Over 800,000 federal workers are going without pay and are being forced to make difficult choices to cover their basic needs, unsure when they will receive their next paychecks. Routine food safety inspections have been cut back. Hundreds of inspections of water systems, chemical factories, power plants, oil refineries, and other industrial sites have been cancelled, with EPA staffers concerned that companies may be releasing more pollution than usual knowing that inspections are on hold. More than 40,000 immigrants, many of whom have been waiting years to have their cases heard in immigration court, have had their hearings cancelled. More than 2,500 food retailers (and counting) are no longer able to accept food assistance benefits because their licenses were not renewed before the government shutdown. As government housing contracts expire, hundreds of thousands of tenants of low income are at risk of eviction. Other impacts range from delayed disaster relief to interrupted data collection on climate change and other health issues. Over the coming weeks, the consequences will become even more extreme. If the government hasn’t reopened by March, food assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, and school meals face steep cuts and may eventually run out of funding altogether, exposing people to hunger. All rental subsidies through the Section 8 housing voucher program – which serves 2.2 million households of low income – would end in March, and public housing units managed by state and local agencies would run out of federal funding to operate more than one million housing units.
This week, a federal judge struck down the Commerce Department’s push to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, after finding clear evidence that Secretary Wilbur Ross violated federal law by misleading the public and members of the administration about the rationale for adding the question, which would be expected to lead to a severe undercount of immigrant communities.
More than 30,000 teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District have been on strike this week protesting underinvestment in the school system. The New Yorker reports that “eighty-five per cent of the district’s students now live below the poverty line, and the student body is roughly ten per cent white. (In Los Angeles, as in many places, whiteness and wealth are strongly correlated.) The strike, particulars aside, has an existential urgency. It forces the question: What would it mean for our democracy and our American self-image if the public schools in our second-largest city were only for the least privileged?”
Opioid overdoses are now the fifth leading cause of preventable death in the US, according to 2017 data from the National Center for Health Statistics