As the Congressional standoff over spending continues, local problems mount. Marie Christy and Nichel Rousseau joined Organizing for Action to protest outside the Federal Building on the second day of the government shutdown.
As time passes, the government shutdown has the potential to harm increasing numbers of people. Among the most vulnerable: those who rely on federally funded programs for safety, health care and food in Southern California.
When news of the shutdown first broke, many regional agencies reported little, if any immediate impact. But with employees furloughed and funding sources frozen, the problems keep building. Here's a timeline snapshot of a few programs bracing for impact.
Immediately following shutdown
- About 500 Federal Aviation Administration safety inspectors have been furloughed in Southern California, said Michael Gonzales with the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS). These inspectors check aircraft to make sure it meets the FAA's safety standards. During the last government shutdown, these inspectors were deemed "essential," but this time they weren't, Gonzales said.
"It's just another set of eyes that aren't out there," Gonzales said.
- Veterans filing claims for disability or health conditions like diabetes often go to the California Department of Veterans Affairs district offices in Oakland, San Diego or Los Angeles seeking help with their applications. Then the claims are processed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which is closed due to the government shutdown.
As a result, there will be a backlog of claims the longer the shutdown continues, said J.P. Tremblay, deputy secretary for the state's VA. Under normal circumstances, he added, claims can take three months to two years to process.
If the shutdown were to last for more than a month, that would add a backlog of 9,000 to 10,000 claims, Tremblay said.
One week after shutdown
- The California Department of Veterans Affairs has district offices that operate in the same building as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' regional offices. Those federal VA regional offices are closed due to the shutdown. Tremblay said his department has been told they will have access to the L.A. district office until Friday. If the shutdown lasts longer than that, the state VA will likely move to the Veterans Home of West Los Angeles.
One month after shutdown
- School lunch programs that are funded through the federal government could see a delay in payment, which may impact low-income students. On a given day, roughly 4.5 million breakfast and lunches are served in California schools, said H.D. Palmer, deputy director for external affairs with the California Department of Finance.
Palmer said the state's school lunch program only has enough money to provide service that's uninterrupted through the month of October.
- The state's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will also be affected. This program provides food stamps to people who are low-income. In California, 1.9 million households receive food stamps, Palmer said. The state said it is fully funded only through the month of October.
Two months after shutdown
- The California Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program provides nutritious food for low-income pregnant women, new mothers, infants and young children. Palmer said the funding for the state's WIC program's will carry it through the end of November without interruptions.
"If we can't get a resolution, we'll have to close, we'll have no more money. It would be devastating, life-threatening," said Laurie True, executive director of the California WIC Association, an advocacy group for WIC. "This is a very vulnerable population."
True said the state has 1.5 million people that participate in the program and about one-third of the caseload is in L.A. County. True said very low-income women who work jobs such as cleaning rooms or as agricultural workers rely on the supplemental food package worth $62 a month. The food includes food like milk, cheese, infant formula and cereal, True said.
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