The ongoing government shutdown is a mixed bag in terms of human services funding and which programs, and, by extension, people are most vulnerable. As part of the five appropriations bills that were signed on time last fall, the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Education and Department of Labor are all funded. As a result, most, human service programs are still getting federal funds. But that is not true of all. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant has run out despite the HHS funding. TANF has not had a full five year reauthorization since 2006. Since then it has received a series of yearly and sometimes monthly extensions. The latest extension in October allowed funding until December 21 as an entitlement-to-the-states block grant. When Congress failed to adopt another extension for the seven appropriations bills that have now currently run out, they also failed to extend TANF.
TANF as an entitlement block grant is paid to the states in quarterly installments and as result states have not received funding for the three month period that started in January.
The biggest human services program under stress are the nutrition programs found in the unfunded Agriculture Department. Although SNAP is an individual entitlement it gets spending authority through the appropriations bills. There have been numerous reports that the Agriculture Department is finding funds to keep it going but it’s unclear how far into February it can run. The same cannot be said for food inspection which is also part of the Agriculture Department.
Housing is another human service program found in the Housing Department which is dependent on the annual Transportation and Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) appropriations legislation. Some accounts indicate that more than 100,000 housing vouchers and over 1000 Housing contracts could expire.
Native American services are also being delayed or denied because much of the funding is found in the Interior Department. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is in that department and programs and human services that come through the BIA include Indian Child Welfare Act, Child and Adult Protection, Housing Improvement Program, Native American Clinics and Workforce Development as just a few examples.
Domestic violence shelters funding along with some funds to deal with adult and child sexual abuse are also vulnerable since those dollars come through the unfunded Department of Justice.
As of Friday, the House had passed four single appropriations bills sending them to the Senate. The bills provide an option for the Senate to deal with the funding one by one instead of one package but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has not been interested in taking the legislation up.