Longest Shutdown in US History
HOW SENIORS WERE AFFECTED
The 35-day partial government shutdown was trying for all federal workers. Its effect on older Americans was uniquely impactful, and if it happens again on February 15th the fallout could be even worse. Fortunately, benefits like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid qualify as “mandated spending” and continue even when the government is shut down. Any new applications for these programs would likely be affected, however, in the wake of long waits due to federal staffing shortages. The FDA did curtail food and drug inspections during the last shutdown. This is especially dangerous for seniors because older adults are at a higher risk for hospitalizations after contracting lab-confirmed foodborne illnesses like salmonella, listeria and e-coli, among others. And although seniors relying on food stamps were able to obtain them during the last 35 days, the US Department of Agriculture had funding to provide them only until February, without new appropriations. About one in 10 senior households relies on food stamps, known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), according to a piece in healthjournalism.org. Furthermore, HUD (The Department of Housing and Urban Development) was also set to deny renewal of rental assistance contracts that expired in December because of the shortfall in funding, and “Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of low-income seniors, people with disabilities, and families with children that receive federal rental assistance face severe hardship if the government shutdown extends into February and March,” stated Doug Rice, a senior analyst at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. For all of these reasons and others, the havoc of a second shutdown would be devastating for the nation’s seniors.