UMW speaks out on government shutdown




Editor's note: As the shutdown of many federal government services that began Oct. 1 lingers on, United Methodist Women has published a plea on behalf of the country's most impoverished citizens.

Photo of U.S. Capitol by Kathleen Barry of UMNS
United Methodist Women calls on members to contact legislators to ask them to end the government stalemate that has led to suspension of many federal programs, including food subsidies for children and seniors in need and child care for low-income families. UMNS photo by Kathleen Barry.

We are at once heartbroken and filled with holy outrage over the incredible irresponsibility of the U.S. Congress that, in its refusal to pass a budget, has followed the drastic cuts it made earlier this year to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs for low-income families to a new low—that of a partial government shutdown that’s causing even more harm to those most vulnerable.

We are heartbroken because, as women organized for mission with women, children and youth for more than 140 years, we know that many people depend on “nonessential” government services affected by the shutdown—services like Head Start, the USDA’s free and reduced priced school lunch programs, meals for seniors, and the Women, Infant and Children nutritional program for pregnant women and families with young children. Because of the federal granting cycles, some local organizations administering these programs have funds to take them through to the end of October, but others do not. In either case, the shutdown can cause real people to lack adequate food, which is hardly “nonessential.”

Mike Landis, executive director of The Neighborhood Center in Camden, N.J., one of 98 United Methodist Women-related mission institutions across the country, explained the impact of the SNAP program cuts that preceded the shutdown.

“There’s the rising alarm over the SNAP funding cuts to be enacted on November 1st and the unlikely prospect that Congress will reverse the cuts before that date. The Neighborhood Center is going to be impacted greatly by these changes. Most of the folks that we feed every day receive SNAP funds; all of our children in educational programs receive SNAP assistance at home. These cuts are occurring just as we are entering the holiday season and will impact our Thanksgiving food distribution.

"In my opinion, a natural disaster is a tragedy—letting a child suffer from food insecurity is morally scandalous.”

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