Commentary: Shutdown Is Cutting Off Services For District's Most Vulnerable | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

WAMU 88.5 : News

Commentary: Shutdown Is Cutting Off Services For District's Most Vulnerable

Play associated audio
Judith Sandalow is the executive director of Children's Law Center.
Judith Sandalow is the executive director of Children's Law Center.

As a D.C. resident, I applaud Mayor Vincent Gray and the D.C. Council for their unanimous determination to keep the District government open despite the shutdown. Thanks to their actions, the city has avoided — for now — an interruption in many basic city services.

But the Mayor cannot prevent the shutdown from threatening the fragile safety net that is maintained by many of our city's non-profit organizations, which depend on federal funding to operate. These are the programs that low-income families need to make sure their children can get a good start in life.

We serve many of these families at the Children's Law Center. One who comes to mind is a mother I'll call "Tammy," who needed help for her 7-year-old son who has special medical needs. Tammy has a low-paying retail job, so she depends on vital programs that are on the brink of closing with a prolonged shutdown.

Take the Women, Infants, and Children program, better known as WIC. It provides Tammy with nutritional counseling, and gives her 1-year-old son, I'll call "Terrence," healthy foods like milk, cereal and vegetables. Every parent knows how important milk is to growing bones, and the WIC food packages help Terrence get a healthy start. D.C.'s program is running on local money for the time being, but it can't stay open for much longer.

The shutdown also means that Medicaid payments to doctors and health centers will be delayed. There is already a limited number of doctors in the District who accept Medicaid. That number may dwindle even further, especially among small providers. Already, public health clinics like our partner Mary's Center, which serves families like Tammy's, have announced they will scale back services due to Medicaid reimbursements that haven't been paid.

This latest setback means that kids like Terrence may not be able to find a doctor for routine visits-potentially delaying immunizations or preventive care that could keep them healthy.

These are just a few examples of how the District's low-income families are being hit hard by a continued shutdown. Every day we're hearing of more programs and services that may be suspended due to the loss of federal funding. It may seem like one closure here and another there doesn't have a big impact on the city overall. But many of these closures affect the same group of DC residents - families like Tammy's, who depend on a combination of services. Their safety net has already suffered multiple tears.

Despite valiant efforts by our city leaders - and my colleagues - the shutdown is a direct threat to the health and well-being of the city's most vulnerable residents.

Judith Sandalow is the executive director of Children's Law Center in D.C.

We want to hear how your background and expertise inform your view of the world. Please join our Public Insight Network and let us know what you think. You can also email us at insight@wamu.org.


WAMU commentaries come from contributors not on the staff of WAMU 88.5. These articles are not intended to reflect the positions of WAMU 88.5. The commentary page is seen as a forum to air diverse and challenging viewpoints.

Please continue the conversation about this topic in the comment section below.

NPR

Fiction Explores The Push And Pull Of Arab-Israeli Identity

Sayed Kashua is an Arab who writes novels in Hebrew and a sitcom in Arabic. A contradiction? Maybe. But his newest book is a good look at an often-overlooked segment of the Israeli population.
NPR

Keychain Breathalyzers May Make Quantified Drinking Easy

Some of us now monitor our steps, sleep and calorie intake with wristbands and apps. So why not track blood alcohol levels? We explore the next frontier in the self-measurement movement.
NPR

As Political Disenchantment Soars, Lines At The Polls Grow Shorter

There has been record low turnout among voters in the 2014 primaries so far. Is it political dysfunction that's made voters lose interest? And what might this mean for November's general elections?
NPR

Bill Allowing Americans To Unlock Cellphones Passes House, Heads To Obama

The bill also directs the Librarian of Congress to review whether the exemption should also apply to tablets and other devices.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.