WASHINGTON – Federal government programs and services benefiting millions of Americans are in jeopardy due to a potential government shutdown and steep cuts in non-defense spending, the head of the largest union representing federal government workers told Congress.
American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. urged lawmakers in a Jan. 18 letter to keep the government running beyond Jan. 19, when current funding expires.
“It is very clear that a federal government shutdown could inflict serious pain on everyday working people,” Cox said in the letter.
If Congress fails to pass a stop-gap spending bill, more than 850,000 federal government employees could be furloughed without pay and another million could be required to work without pay to keep public safety and health care programs running.
A shutdown would have wide-ranging impacts across the country, forcing the closure of national parks, museums, and zoos; delaying loans to millions of small businesses that rely on federal support; delaying payments, pensions, and educational benefits to veterans; ending applications for new Social Security benefits; and delaying paychecks for more than 2 million military service members.
President Cox also urged Congress to provide equal increases in spending for defense and non-defense programs. AFGE fully supports increasing DoD funding to enhance readiness, but not at the expense of other spending priorities.
Many agencies already are operating with barebones budgets thanks to years of deep cuts to non-defense discretionary programs. The Environmental Protection Agency’s budget has been cut by almost one-third, jeopardizing the agency’s mission to safeguard the quality of our air and water.
The Social Security Administration, which has seen deep cuts in funding over the past seven years, is facing another cut of up to $492 million this year.
“SSA provides direct, personal assistance to millions of Americans every year who are applying for benefits,” Cox wrote. “A cut of this magnitude will cripple the agency’s ability to carry out its mission to help beneficiaries get the benefits they deserve.”