1 of 3 | U.S Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters at the White House on Monday that an "extreme Republican" government shutdown next week could cost nearly 7-million low-income women and children their food benefits. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 25 (UPI) -- U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack warned Monday that an "extreme Republican" government shutdown next week could cost nearly 7 million low-income women and children their food benefits through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.
"WIC is a program that impacts and affects over 50% of all the newborns in this country. Nearly 7 million pregnant moms, new mothers and young children count on WIC every single day to receive support -- nutrition assistance support," Vilsack told reporters at the White House on Monday.
"With a shutdown, what we would see across the United States is a denial of those benefits and opportunities," he added. Vilsack said the WIC program would stop immediately, while the SNAP program could survive through the month of October.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives is working to advance spending cuts as a condition to keep the U.S. government open, with the Democratic-controlled Senate unlikely to agree. With no agreement, a partial shutdown of the government would go into effect by Sunday.
The White House has blasted "extreme House Republicans" who "continue to demand a reckless laundry list of partisan proposals as a condition of keeping the government open."
The Biden administration warns a shutdown would "undermine our economy and national security, create needless uncertainty for families and businesses and have damaging consequences across the country."
Moody's Investors Service also warned Monday that a government shutdown would negatively impact the United States' current AAA credit rating for sovereign debt. In August, both Standard & Poor's and Fitch downgraded the U.S. credit rating to AA+ following a political debt ceiling battle in May to keep the federal government from running out of money.
The White House warned most agencies, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Safety and Health Administration, as well as the Department of Agriculture, would be impacted by a shutdown as Vilsack said the nation's farm economy is also at risk.
"Now is the time when farmers are harvesting their crops and they're seeking marketing loans, which allow them and assist them in ensuring that they get a decent price for their crop," Vilsack said. "When we have a shutdown, farm service agency offices in virtually every county of this country shut down and those loans are not available."
Vilsack also warned that national parks would close and firefighter funding, for those fighting nearly 44,000 fires currently burning in the Western United States, would be put at risk.
"I'm here today to suggest that there are real consequences to real people in a real way when there is a shutdown, especially one that ought not to happen," Visack said. "And I'm hopeful that, at the end of the day, it doesn't happen."