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WIC, SNAP, furloughs, pay gaps: How a shutdown will impact Cumberland


With just hours left for Congress to come up with a funding deal, government observers say a government shutdown seems likely. This will mean certain non-essential employees will be furloughed, services will cease and more.

“Unfortunately, I cannot see that (a spending deal) happening,” Han Lheem, professor of political science at Fayetteville State University, told CityView this week.

The house has until 12:01 a.m. Sunday — the first day of the new federal fiscal year — to approve funding before the shutdown. 

It’s a partial, not full, shutdown — meaning the mail and Social Security checks will still be delivered. Some routine government operations will cease. But IRS audits would stop, national parks would close, loans to small businesses would end.

Any deal averting a shutdown is unlikely to go through because of a few key Republican representatives holding out on supporting funding in hopes of getting their demand of key budget cuts. One of those holdouts includes North Carolina Rep. Dan Bishop, a Republican who represents the 8th District.

“House Republicans need to stop playing with people's livelihoods, keep the government open, and address other urgent needs for the American people,” N.C. House Democrats Marvin Lucas, Charles Smith and Frances Jackson said in a joint statement. “We stand in support of our military service members and their families." In light of the impending shutdown, here's what impacts may be felt along the Sandhills region. 

Nutrition and scholarship programs 

In Cumberland County, 12,630 people rely on the Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and 26,223 households received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program assistance (SNAP).

Lheem said the expiration of the benefits is his biggest concern with a potential shutdown.

SNAP benefits would last until the end of October, but if the shutdown lasts any longer than that, benefits would be lost for the thousands of families who rely on the program. 

WIC is a different story, however. Recipients of the program could run out of assistance funds as early as next week, according to the Biden administration

In addition to food assistance programs, the shutdown will cause disruptions to Pell Grant disbursement and student aid application processing, meaning local college students may lose scholarships or have to wait longer for needed financial aid to go through. 

Fort Liberty furloughs and pay gaps

Many of the 47,499 active-duty soldiers and their families at Fort Liberty may be affected monetarily as well. Most troops will either be furloughed without pay for the duration of the shutdown or be required to work without pay until the shutdown ends, when they would receive back pay.

Military families will have to rely on savings, which may prove difficult, as one in three military families have less than $3,000 set aside, according to nonprofit Blue Star Families. 

A majority of the 10,999 Department of Defense nonmilitary service members at the base will most likely be furloughed without pay for the duration of the shutdown as well. 

Other impacts

For those planning to travel by air soon, flights may be canceled or delayed. The 16 air traffic controllers at Fayetteville Regional Airport would need to agree to work without pay. The airport is already short of its goal of having 22 fully trained controllers. 

The shutdown would also mean instruction for the 11 additional controllers in training would halt during the shutdown, leading to potential shortages even after the shutdown ends. 

National parks and sites across North Carolina will also close or be limited in access and services, according to a release from the U.S. Dept. of the Interior. 

“At (National Park Services) sites across the country, gates will be locked, visitor centers will be closed, and thousands of park rangers will be furloughed,” the NPS said in a release. 

NPS sites in North Carolina include Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, Appalachian Trail and more. 

Contact Char Morrison at cmorrison@cityviewnc.com.

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