4 Major Ways the 2018-2019 Government Shutdown Impacted Women

The longest shutdown of the United States federal government began on midnight of December 22nd. This second government shutdown of 2018, which continued into the New Year, stemmed mainly from disagreement over President Trump’s demands for the funding required to create a border wall between the United States and Mexico. The shutdown called for the closing of nine governmental agencies including: the Food and Drug Administration, Department of Labor, and Department of Housing and Urban Development, causing thousands of employee furloughs (a period of time where an employee is on special leave without pay).

While as of Friday January 25th, the government has reopened temporarily for three weeks, effects of the closing are still in full swing. Although many of us may have been fortunate enough to have conducted our lives normally in the midst of the shutdown, its implications were detrimental to various groups. Effects of the shutdown greatly impacted women across the nation. From decreases in resources for domestic violence and sexual assault victims to a lack of funding for food stamps, American women faced serious effects during the shutdown.

1. The Violence Against Women Act Failed to Be Reauthorized

During the shutdown, Congress failed to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Passed in 1994 and reauthorized in 2000, 2005, and 2013, VAWA “is a landmark piece of legislation that sought to improve criminal justice and community-based responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in the United States.” While grants have already been awarded by the Justice Department for 2019, requests made after December 26th will be put on hold while the shutdown continues. VAWA is a critical resource for women across the nation. According to former President Obama, the act “provides law enforcement with better resources to investigate cases of rape” and “gives colleges more tools to educate students about dating violence and sexual assault.” Since the reopening it has been extended until February 15th.

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2. Pathways to Safety’s Funding Ran Out

Pathways to Safety, an organization “that helps US citizens overseas who have suffered sexual assault or domestic violence,” ran out of funding from the United States Department of Justice on January 6th. This organization is hugely important for American citizens either living or travelling abroad who have been victims of interpersonal and gender based violence. Although they serve many different groups of people, women undoubtedly benefit from their services.

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3. Domestic Violence Shelters Faced Severe Financial Troubles

Due to the government shutdown, groups such as The Eastern Panhandle Empowerment Center, which provides resources to domestic violence and sexual assault victims, have been forced to make serious financial cuts due to the cessation of federal grant money streams. These groups provide incredible services, such as funds for prescriptions, free rides to help women obtain employment, and assistance with security deposits for new safe housing. Their inability to provide these services, especially those that help place women in safe housing has impeded their capability to provide women with beds in their shelters. As waiting lists grow and grow, women are put in danger.

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4. Insecurity for Food Stamp Recipients

Many women serve as the breadwinners in their families and rely on government food programs to be able to put food on their families’ plates. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will be able to support recipients through January and February, but during the shutdown whether the program would be able to send funds through March if the shutdown continued was unclear. With the reopening, it has been said that the period of time between the program’s February and March payments to participants may be unusually long, creating worry for many women already struggling to budget and make ends meet for their families.

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The United States federal government is back open (for now) making it easy to think that problems are solved, but for women especially, there are plenty of lasting effects from the shutdown and anxiety of a looming continuation in the next few weeks. As February 15th approaches, concern as to whether or not various benefits, programs, and resources that so many women rely on will be available increases. The past government shutdown was highly damaging to women, and another one on the rise is unacceptable.