Congress acting worse than children

Filed under OPINION

00_marionedelmanSince the government was forced to shut down on Oct. 1, one of the most common refrains has been that some members of Congress are acting like children — or, more accurately, worse than most children.

Even 5-year-olds understand that quitting the game and taking the ball home because the other team won’t give you your way is wrong.

Extremist Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives continue to hold funding for the federal government hostage for the second week in a row, opposing a clean extension of government funding without conditions. Their actions as they refuse to do their constitutionally mandated duty are harming the economy and countless real children and families across the country.

Families hurt
Many federal programs that help low income families meet every day needs have been forced to stop operating because of the shutdown, including some of the same programs already hit hard by sequestration cuts earlier this year.

Children have only one childhood. Every day that children are being denied early education and food causes lasting damage to their chances of living to their full potential.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is without its regular funding due to the shutdown, leaving at risk nearly 9 million pregnant women, recent mothers, and their children under age five who rely on the program’s supplemental vouchers for healthy food, expensive infant formula, and other necessities. Fifty-three percent of all infants born in the U.S. are fed through the WIC program.

Head Start serves more than 1 million poor children, who are particularly in need of early education programs to succeed and thrive. Twenty-three Head Start programs servicing nearly 19,000 students across 10 states and Puerto Rico did not have access to federal funding on October 1 because the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services could not process Head Start grants as a result of the shutdown.

Funding for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) shouldn’t have been affected by the shutdown, but because the legislation reauthorizing it was delayed along with the spending bill, states are not receiving their October federal funds.

Research affected
Even life-saving research for children with serious medical needs has been affected. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that for every week the shutdown continues, 30 children — 10 of whom have cancer — will not be able to begin their clinical trials.

States use the $1.7 billion Social Services Block Grant for child abuse and neglect services, child care, and other family services, but due to the shutdown, states are not receiving their October funds. This means some states may have to close down programs if they don’t have alternative funds they can use.

Some members of Congress continue to show worse “compromising” skills than spoiled toddlers. Enough is enough. Call or email your own representative and tell them they must act now to fully fund the federal government and raise the debt ceiling without any conditions. Tell them to stop the shutdown and prevent an economic meltdown for the sake of our children.

Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund. For more information, go to www.childrensdefense.org.

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