Let our children go hungry—that’s the message Congress is sending to families in need as America sails into day four of the government shutdown.
The political mess on Capitol Hill, in which a few stubborn conservative lawmakers have taken our economy hostage, will have dire consequences for children and mothers unless this standoff ends. Almost nine million low-income mothers, pregnant women, babies, and young children rely on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) for food assistance and health care referrals. But with the government shut down, WIC can no longer issue payments and states are forced to use what little money they have left to provide this vital food assistance.
Unfortunately, the clock is ticking and the likelihood that those funds will run out increases with each day that the government remains closed. In fact, in most cases, state funds will run out in a little over a week. And for Latinos, who compose more than two-fifths of all program participants, the strain on their budgets for food will be difficult to live with. WIC is a critical lifeline for Latino children, who now make up nearly 40% of all children living with hunger in the U.S. Not only does the program help especially young children and new mothers meet their basic nutrition needs, it also keeps families out of poverty.
The tantrum that a few obstinate lawmakers are throwing because they can’t defund the Affordable Care Act is having a rippling effect that threatens the health of our communities and our children. But, then again, what should we expect from a Congress that is currently attempting to make drastic cuts to other food assistance programs that Latinos desperately need?
We expect more from our leaders. We expect them to do their jobs responsibly and pass a federal budget that creates jobs and invests in our future. Infants and pregnant mothers should never be caught in the blowback of a political standoff. And it should be downright infuriating to anybody with a conscience that a mother may not be able to purchase formula or a baby may go to bed hungry because our elected officials are busy playing politics.
Congress’s job is to govern. It’s time that they stop acting like children and start looking out for ours.