The following is a statement from Richard Besser, MD, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
A federal government shutdown would be a self-inflicted public health emergency, providing no benefit and potentially harming millions of people who already struggle to stay healthy and make ends meet. There is still time for members of Congress to reach a funding agreement that keeps the government open and prioritizes people’s health and wellbeing.
A shutdown does not help anyone, but people whose lives and livelihoods are connected closely to the federal government would be hurt the most. An estimated two million federal workers and contractors, some of whom live paycheck to paycheck, would not get paid. Critical health and nutrition programs like WIC—which serves nearly seven million women and young children—could be forced to cut benefits. FEMA will not have enough funds to cover existing disaster relief efforts, let alone future ones. Playing politics with people’s lives is simply unacceptable.
During the COVID crisis, policymakers showed that incredible things can happen when they come together and invest in the health and wellbeing of children and families. Expanded safety net government programs lifted millions of people out of poverty, reduced childhood hunger, lowered the uninsured rate to record levels, and kept childcare facilities open for families who depend on them. Unfortunately, Congress allowed those supports to expire, leading to an increase in poverty. A shutdown would make a difficult situation even worse.
We look to Congress to make the right choice. Come together and fund the government. Lives depend on it.
About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is committed to improving health and health equity in the United States. In partnership with others, we are working to develop a Culture of Health rooted in equity that provides every individual with a fair and just opportunity to thrive, no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they have.
Social Determinants of Health
The foundation for our health begins in our homes, schools, jobs, and neighborhoods. We work to address the social and economic factors that affect our health.