Government Shutdowns Harm Hispanic American Military Families
Funding for the federal government is set to expire on November 17, 2023 unless Congress passes a budget for the new fiscal year, or a continuing resolution, which temporarily extends spending at existing budgetary levels. The U.S. government was on the brink of shut down leading into October 1, 2023 before Democrats aided then Republican Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy in passing a Continuing Resolution to continue funding the government for 45 days. If Congress fails to act again, active duty military families and veterans, of which Hispanics make up around 17%, will disproportionately feel the impacts of having their paychecks stopped.
Impact on Military Families
Active duty service members are still be obligated to report for duty amid a shutdown, but without pay. Many of these families earn an annual income of less than $30,000 and have no savings. They depend on every paycheck to cover their basic necessities, such as food and rent.
In addition to the lack of pay, in a shutdown service members would also be denied access to essential food assistance programs. As much as 25% of active-duty families rely on programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which are suspended during a shut down.
Moreover, the closure of numerous on-base child care centers would leave parents, obligated by law to continue reporting for duty, in an untenable situation. The cessation of elective surgeries and insurance payments for dental and vision during the shutdown could also expose these families to potential medical debt.
For families already grappling with financial instability while serving their country, the convergence of lost pay, diminished food support, and absent childcare could be catastrophic.
Impact on the Hispanic Community
Hispanic Americans serve in the U.S. armed forces at disproportionately high rates. As a result, a government shutdown can have extensive repercussions on Hispanic communities, especially those serving in the military. It emphasizes the importance of community solidarity and mutual support during such challenging times. It's crucial for local Hispanic communities, organizations, and churches to rally together to support affected military families, ensuring no family faces this impending crisis alone.
Reason for Government Shutdown
The Constitution mandates Congress to establish and approve annual government funding levels. If Congress hadn't passed a Continuing Resolution by October 1, the start of a new fiscal year, the government would have run out of money and nonessential government functions shut down. That Continuing Resolution will expire on November 17 and the government will shut down unless Congress passes a new budget or another CR. Congress members themselves are still paid during a shut down.
While there was bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, and an agreement with the White House to pass the necessary spending bills to maintain government operations, disagreements and delays from a small number of GOP House members in the Freedom Caucus threatened to hinder the passage of the fiscal 2024 Pentagon spending bill. When Speaker McCarthy moved forward with the resolution to keep the government open, eight members of his own caucus successfully moved to remove McCarthy from the House Speakership.
Potential Duration of the Shutdown
Historically, most government shutdowns have been relatively brief. But given current dynamics between the Freedom Caucus and the rest of the GOP majority, which led to the ouster of former Speaker McCarthy, there is the potential for a protracted stalemate. Over the last 40 years, there have been 20 shutdowns that lasted for at least one full day. The longest and most recent one stretched for 34 full days from December 21, 2018, to January 25, 2019.