About 31,000 New Jerseyans work for the federal government. Many of these public servants have been furloughed; the remainder are continuing to perform their duties but will not be paid until Congress funds the government. As a result, Moody's Analytics estimates that a three-to-four week shutdown would cut economic growth nationwide by more than half in the fourth quarter.
Due to the shutdown, the Children's Home Society -- which administers the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program in Mercer County -- could not write any food or milk vouchers last week, impacting several thousand women and their families. The state of New Jersey has since stepped forward to support WIC temporarily, but if the shutdown continues, more children could lose access to basic nutrition.
At Rutgers Cooperative Extension, 60 staff members are about to be laid off due to funding shortfalls related to the shutdown. New small business loans, including those for New Jersey's nearly 200,000 small businesses, are being halted. New student loans for New Jersey's 440,000 college students are not being disbursed. New applications for Social Security, veterans' benefits, visas, and passports are not being processed.
These problems will only grow worse if this shutdown is allowed to continue. And if the debt ceiling crisis is not resolved, the increased cost to the government could easily be in the tens of billions of dollars each year.
Today Republicans in the House are stalling and filling time while they find the courage to admit they have made a big mistake, substantively and politically, in shutting the federal government and to bring to the floor a resolution to resume funding. So, they are using time to bring up a version of the farm bill that would leave more Americans hungry by reducing SNAP benefits (previously known as food stamps).
According to the Lancet Medical Journal published this past week, "SNAP is in jeopardy, which means American children's health is in jeopardy." More than 70 percent of SNAP benefits go to households with children. The program, dating from the 1960s, has been shown to have less waste, fraud, and erroneous awards than other government programs.
The Lancet article continues, "Many studies have shown positive associations between receipt of SNAP and... a lower risk of anemia, obesity, poor health, hospital admission for failure to thrive, and reports of child abuse and neglect. Children aged 5 - 9 years of SNAP-participating families had better academic outcomes and less obesity than had children of non-participating families... Between 1961 and 1975, the programme was implemented county by county, thus, allowing for comparison across counties that differed only by SNAP availability. In SNAP-available counties there was a significant increase... in mean birthweight [an important measure associated with infant health] for both black and white Americans compared with those counties where SNAP was not available. Children of low-income women in SNAP-available counties were less likely to have metabolic syndrome [ill health such as diabetes] in adulthood, and women who had received food stamps during early childhood were more likely to be economically self-sufficient."
This seems to me to be a very important point: the societal benefits of food stamps extend far beyond the temporary reduction of hunger pangs, and the benefits last for years, even into the next generation.
Member of Congress