Congress Averts Economic Armageddon, but Shutdown Impacts Felt by Communities

$100 bill in the shape of puzzle piecesOnce again, Congressional leaders have reached a temporary last-minute deal to avert economic Armageddon. In other words, with Congress punting the ball, the game has been extended into another overtime period.

The tentative deal has reopened the government by extending current funding levels of $986 billion through January 15, and lifting the debt ceiling until February 7. In addition, the deal requires a joint House-Senate conference to produce a broader budget deal by December 13. While hopes that the deal will establish a cooling off period for policymakers to return their focus on developing a long-term and partisan fiscal solution, history tells us to expect more Doomsdays and short-term fixes.

While the media’s focus on these political dramas appears like bad reality TV, the real-world realities are felt in local communities served by Goodwill® agencies. From employment opportunities for people with significant disabilities, veterans services, low-income housing, income tax assistance programs and more, local Goodwill agencies, their employees, and the people Goodwill serves are experiencing the pinch caused by the recent government shutdown.

Examples include:

  • Many local Goodwill agencies are involved with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. The program informs taxpayers about special tax credits for which they may qualify, and offers free tax help to people who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. One agency reported that its VITA effort has been impaired by the shutdown because its IRS contact has been furloughed, noting, “We don’t know the potential impact of the furlough on the start date of accepting tax returns.”
  • One Goodwill agency in Florida provides affordable, convenient, independent housing for people with disabilities and very-low incomes. While Goodwill provides the bulk of the funding for this effort, with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development closed, plans to open a new facility have been on hold. A Goodwill representative remarked, “Essentially every day of the shutdown delays our ability to open that housing up to people in our region who so badly need it.”
  • Veterans in Orange County have been locked out of their rehabilitation and fitness centers due to the government shutdown. In response, Goodwill of Orange County opened its fitness center free of charge to affected veterans, and has continued to provide employment support services to veterans in the community.

Real stories, real impact – these deserve real attention from policymakers.

How has your community been affected by the shutdown? Please share your stories by leaving a comment.