A deeper dive into what the Government Shutdown means for individuals living in poverty.

Our hearts go out to all of those affected by the Government Shutdown. To the government workers who aren’t getting paid, the folks not receiving government benefits, the landlord whose tenants can’t make rent, we see you.

Consider this example of what our neighbors are facing: A single mother, Amanda, has 3 kids, is working full time earning $24,000/year. She qualifies for food assistance and rental assistance which helps but she’s still responsible for a portion of her rent and by the end of the month typically runs out of food benefits as she’s feeding growing boys. Studies show that towards the end of the month, the calorie consumption per household lowers due to higher spending habits when benefits are first received. Moms like Amanda are already sacrificing to make ends meet.

Unfortunately, this is the reality for 1 in 3 of our neighbors right here in Cincinnati. Poverty is alive in our city, in our state and across our country. Due to the Government Shutdown, the state of Ohio allocated February’s food benefits earlier than normal just yesterday, Wednesday, January 16th in order to ensure everyone receives their February food allotment. This means that the amount received must last through February, or potentially longer should the Government Shutdown continue. And it’s unclear if families will receive March assistance. For individuals who are focusing on the short-term the ramifications over just a month’s time could be radical.

SmartMoney financial counselor, Michelle Abernathy says,  “If the government shutdown goes until April then people will need to start thinking about their food budget for the next 90 days and what that looks like. Additionally, if they are receiving section 8 housing vouchers, they have to be thinking about how are they going to pay the full rent and budget for the same amount of food.”

In this hypothetical situation, Amanda is responsible for paying $620/month for rent because her housing voucher covers $380/month.But without this voucher she’s required to pay the full $1000 rent for the month of February. This is 50% of what she makes monthly (before taxes) and on top of that she’s faced with also not receiving her food benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). According the US department of Agriculture,  Amanda receives $642/month in food assistance based on her family size. So, without Government benefits, Amanda is now responsible for an additional $1,022 in monthly expenses. And that’s just food and rent.

Many times, when individuals are focused on surviving day to day or pay check to paycheck, they can lose site of the bigger picture for future. Whether that’s saving to build assets, furthering their education, or simply doing homework with your kids, when stress from financial constraints enters a home, so much more than a bank account suffers.

If you or someone you know is being affected by the Government Shutdown, CityLink has resources to support them in learning how to stretch their finances, employment supports and even pathways to new careers to change their trajectory.

Amidst all the chaos happening in our government, we are hopeful. Please join us in praying for the leaders of our nation to reach an agreement, for individuals who are out of work, and for others affected in ways we can’t always see.