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Government shutdown? Here's how that affects Central Florida health

The Capitol
Jessica Rodriguez Rivas
Creative Common License
The Capitol

With a government shutdown looming, Central Florida residents could feel the effects should Congress fail to enact the 12 annual appropriation bills by Saturday.

Those bills potentially affect local public health programs like those the Department of Health uses to combat AIDS/HIV and the opioid crisis.

However, experts worry that lower-income families would be among the first to feel the effects of a shutdown, like the Women, Infants, and Children supplement program, or WIC. According to the FDOH, WIC supplies healthy foods, nutrition education and counseling, breastfeeding support, and referrals for health care and community services.

“So what happens is they give funding on a card when mothers go to the grocery store. They can have certain food products they can purchase that are healthy. So if this would stop, there would be no funding, that would stop immediately. That'd be very impactful,” said Nancy Niles, the Chair of the Department of Health Professions at Rollins College.

Another supplement affected by a potential shutdown would be SNAP, a food stamp program.

"That could remain intact through October, but if something were to happen after that and the shutdown lasted longer, it could create problems," Niles said.

Government shutdowns have occurred since the 80s, although government funding gaps have been recorded since the 70s, according to the U.S. House of Representatives. The longest shutdown occurred in 2019 when it took 34 days for Congress to enact appropriations.

Niles pointed out that the shutdown could affect Florida in other ways, too. The Atlantic Hurricane Season is still observing its peak time for storm development. Should disaster strike, the Federal Emergency Management Agency would probably not be able to adequately provide relief.

"There'll be really no money for disaster relief," she said.

FEMA staff will still respond to emergencies, but all long-term projects would be delayed due to a lack of funding, according to the House of Representatives.

Other social health programs, like Medicare, Medicaid, and disability insurance beneficiaries, will continue to receive their benefits as money has been allotted for those programs up to three months in advance.

Originally from South Florida, Joe Mario came to Orlando to attend the University of Central Florida where he graduated with degrees in Radio & Television Production, Film, and Psychology. He worked several beats and covered multimedia at The Villages Daily Sun but returned to the City Beautiful as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel where he covered crime, hurricanes, and viral news. Joe Mario has too many interests and not enough time but tries to focus on his love for strange stories in comic books and horror movies. When he's not writing he loves to run in his spare time.
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