WASHINGTON – Ericka Goff hears the rumblings about a possible federal government shutdown this fall and prays it doesn’t happen.
Goff, a receptionist in Columbus, Ohio, is a single mother with three children. She depends on the $600 monthly government child care assistance she receives to help make ends meet. The funding is set to expire at the end of September unless Congress extends it.
Without the money, Goff won’t be able to afford to child care. And without child care, she won’t be able to work and support her family.
“We’re barely surviving out here, and the government wants to take that funding and then shut down the government?” she said. “How are we going to live?”
Across the country, Americans are growing increasingly anxious about the possibility of another government shutdown, according to the results of a poll to be released Thursday.
Seven of 10 voters polled said they are concerned there will be a shutdown because Congress will be unable to reach an agreement on a new budget before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30. The poll was conducted for the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, a nonpartisan organization focused on addressing the country’s fiscal challenges.
A government shutdown could impact Americans in many ways since all but “essential” federal agencies would close their doors. The mail would still arrive, and Social Security recipients would still get their checks. But most federal employees would be furloughed, national parks could turn away visitors, air travel could be delayed and programs such as food assistance benefits could take longer to process.
Nearly eight of 10 voters in the poll said a shutdown should be avoided because it harms the economy, and seven of 10 said a shutdown would distract from the country’s larger fiscal challenges.
Ninety-one percent of Democrats and 89% of Republicans polled said lawmakers in both parties should work together to avoid a government shutdown and focus their efforts on finding solutions for the national debt. The poll showed growing support among both parties for the creation of a bipartisan commission to recommend a comprehensive package of reforms to reduce the national debt.
“Nobody wins in a government shutdown, especially our economy and the American people,” said Michael A. Peterson, the Peterson Foundation’s chief executive officer.
The poll results show that voters feel strongly that lawmakers “must avoid the economic damage of a shutdown and focus instead on real solutions to our nation’s fiscal challenges,” Peterson said.
Jennifer Wells of Montgomery, Alabama, said the poll results reflect the anxiety she is hearing from other people about the possibility of a government shutdown.
“Folks understand how serious this is,” said Wells, director of economic justice for Community Change, a social justice organization and advocacy group for low-income people.
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In Washington, time is running out for Congress to avoid a government shutdown. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is struggling to get some conservative lawmakers to support a short-term measure that would temporarily fund the government at current levels beyond the Sept. 30 deadline and avert a shutdown.
A group of House conservatives known as the Freedom Caucus has issued a list of demands that it wants included in a short-term funding bill, including initiatives to stop the Justice Department and FBI from conducting what the group calls political “witch hunts” and opposition to “blank check” funding to Ukraine.
Freedom Caucus members are threatening to withhold their support for a short-term funding measure unless McCarthy meets their demands, which are strongly opposed by Democrats. Republicans hold just a five-seat majority in the House, which gives McCarthy little wiggle room to get a short-term funding bill passed and sent to the Senate.
Wells said a government shutdown would have devastating consequences for low-income Americans.
Of particular concern is the termination of child care funding provided under the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion COVID-relief package passed in 2021. The funding, which helped child care centers weather the fallout from the pandemic, is scheduled to end Sept. 30. Without it, child care for millions of children and families will disappear, advocacy groups warn.
“We’re looking at the potential to lose 30,000 child care programs – that’s up to 3 million families that are going to have to struggle and figure out if they’re going to choose to leave the workforce because they can’t afford child care,” Wells said.
The loss of those jobs would reverberate throughout the economy, Wells said.
“That’s the insidious part of what they’re doing,” she said. “They’re literally wrecking the economy in order to make certain that rich folks continue to stay rich and the continue to benefit off the backs of regular folks.”
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In Alaska, some members of the state’s fishing industry are watching the budget discussions with trepidation. A government shutdown could delay the approval of federal fishing quotas, which are set in the fall and take effect in the coming year.
The 35-day government shutdown that started in December 2018 and spilled over into the following January caused delays in getting fishing boat licenses approved and acquiring other necessary paperwork. Fisheries are worried that will happen again if there is a prolonged government shutdown this fall, said Julie Kavanaugh, whose family owns a fishing company in Kodiak, Alaska.
Kavanaugh said her operation could lose 20% to 30% of its income if there’s a shutdown. “I would challenge anybody to subtract 30% of their income and try to pay their bills,” she said.
Hannah Heimbuch, who is a commercial salmon fisherman in the summer and works on fisheries policy and advocacy the rest of the year, said she worries about the impact of a government shutdown on fisheries that already are coping with depressed fish prices.
“A lot of fishermen are operating at a loss,” she said. “I think a lot of processors are feeling the struggle of those lower prices and that depressed market. And so I’m concerned that some of these fluctuations that maybe would be weatherable in other circumstances are going to put additional stress on an already stressed system.”
Wells said Congress should do its job and pass a budget to avoid another government shutdown.
“We have a choice,” she said. “You stay at work, you pass a budget that benefits families, our economy, and particularly working families, women and children. Or you choose to continue to throw us into chaos for the protection of corporations.”
Michael Collins covers the White House. Follow him on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter, @mcollinsNEWS.
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