Spotlight Exclusives

The Shutdown۪s Effects on the Poor: Media Coverage in Review

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In the weeks following the federal government shutdown, Spotlight conducted an analysis of how the media and elected official discussed the shutdown۪s effect on low-income households. Encouragingly, we found significant and persistent attention to the problem.

Major media outlets were highly engaged on the issue of how those in poverty were faring under the shutdown, as evidenced by the following pieces:

·        ABC News, “Shutdown Weighing on Low-Income Americans

·        The New Yorker, “How the Government Shutdown Hurts the Poor

·        The Huffington Post, “Government Shutdown Jeopardizes WIC Program

·        The Washington Post (Blog), “The 8 immoral ways the government shutdown is hurting the needy

·        The Nation, “Government Shutdown Was a War Against the Poor

The effect of the federal shutdown on programs like WIC, Head Start, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) was reported within hours of the start of the shutdown. The Huffington Post quickly reported on the challenges faced by WIC programs, which provide food assistance, nutrition education, and healthcare referrals for low-income mothers and children. Utah’s WIC program immediately closed in response to the shutdown, and WIC centers in other states stopped accepting new applications and distributing vouchers. ABC News also published a list of funding cuts that hit low-income individuals, including cuts to Head Start, Meals on Wheels, and TANF.

Although emergency funding and rainy day funds allowed some programs to continue in many states, low-income families faced additional struggles. Housing loans and rental assistance could not be distributed to rural poor families, according to The New Yorker. Other services to needy Americans also were halted, including processing new applications for disability benefits. Another article in The New Yorker reported thousands of children were unable to attend preschool due to Head Start closures.

While there were pretty clear partisan differences over shutting down the government, when faced with real families experiencing real cuts, the party lines got a tad blurrier. Republican and Democratic voices recognized the impact on their vulnerable constituents. On a national level, despite her opposition to the Affordable Care Act, U.S. Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) called for her colleagues to face reality and reopen the government, in order to resume funding for programs such as “food assistance for low-income women, infants, and children.”

At a state level, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear projected over one million low-income state residents would not have received food or home energy assistance if the shutdown had continued until the end of October. Governor Beshear stated, “In a nation of plenty, in the wealthiest nation in the world, this should not happen.”

Posted by Sarah


Here at Out of the Spotlight, we offer a behind-the-scenes look at the latest news and information essential to anyone working to fight poverty. From key political appointees to clashes over policy, we cover the news that doesn’t always make the evening news. Check out Out of the Spotlight for our take on the twists and turns of the latest political developments and their impact on poverty reduction. Topics and ideas are welcome! Just contact or

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