New America Media, News Report, NAM Staff, Posted: Oct 03, 2013

Pres. Barack Obama summoned top lawmakers to the White House on Wednesday afternoon, where he was expected to urge them to pass measures to finance the government and increase the debt ceiling, without placing limits on the Affordable Care Act.
But, no progress was made to end a budget impasse that resulted in a government shutdown since 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday. News of the shutdown, which includes the closure of all national parks and a work furlough for 800,000 federal employees, generated a big response in the ethnic press. Key areas of concern included the shutdown’s effect on federal workers, loss of funding for social services, ramifications for immigration reform, and environmental impacts.

Federal jobs a lifeline for many people of color

Ethnic media expressed concern for the plight of federal workers. People of color make up a larger proportion of the federal workforce than they do the general workforce, Colorlines reports.

According to La Opinion, a federal report estimates that as of the end of 2011 there were 157,653 Latinos working for the federal government, or 8.1 percent of that workforce.

Politics365 reports that the government shutdown will disproportionately affect Latino and blacks:

“In 2012, blacks comprised about 13 percent of the nation’s population but nearly 18 percent of its federal workforce, according to the most recent data available. That same year, Latinos comprised nearly 16 percent of the nation’s population and a just over 8 percent of those employed by the federal government.”

Steven Pitts, an economist and labor policy specialist at the University of California, Berkeley, told Politics365 that “government employment — be it at the local, county, state or federal level – together constitute the largest single employer of black men and women living in the United States.”

Ethnic media ran press releases from labor advocacy groups and unions to show solidarity with furloughed federal workers – nearly 1 million federal employees who “are furloughed with no guarantee of retroactive pay while many others continue to work without pay.”

Shutdown will hit working vets especially hard

The military’s 1.4 million active-duty members will stay on duty during the federal government shutdown, and Pres. Obama signed a bill on Monday to ensure all active members of the U.S. military will continue to get paid, media report.

But, of the 800,000 furloughed federal workers, about half are members of the military. And veterans could start to see a delay in disability compensation and pension payments in two to three weeks.

The “Balitang America (News in America)” newscast on the ABS-CBN Network, spoke to Filipino American military retirees who are worried they won’t get their monthly pensions if the government closure is extended. Meanwhile the U.S. Veterans Affairs Department warned that if the shutdown drags into late October, “it will run out of money for compensation and pension checks for more than 3.6 million veterans worldwide,” reports Bev Llorente.

La Opinion reports that there are 1.2 million Latino veterans, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Freeze on social services runs the gamut

Ethnic media also reported on how the loss of funding for social service programs will effect their respective communities.

La Opinion reported that The Department of Agriculture announced that following the government shutdown it will not have additional funds for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) food program. Latinas make up 45 percent of the 9 million women who are pregnant or have small children and rely on healthy food through the WIC food program.

Univision reports that small business loans — many of them owned by Latinos – are on stand by, and that the closure of Head Start programs will also have a huge impact on Latinos, who make up 73.3 percent of all Head Start students.

Tribal communities will not be immune to the shutdown, reports the Navajo Times:

“Programs such as tribal colleges, some Indian Health Service units, and Head Start will operate only if funds are currently available.”

There is, in addition, no guarantee of federal reimbursement if tribal governments choose to self-fund, the Navajo Times reported.

Shutdown could slow immigration reform reports that the government shutdown and looming fight over the national debt and debt ceiling have eclipsed the momentum on immigration reform.

Jean Paul Salamanca writes: “The conundrum facing Republicans on the looming shutdown is not unlike the one facing them in the immigration reform debate. …While the best way to do that [make inroads with Latino voters] may be to pass the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” immigration bill that would grant millions of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. a pathway to citizenship, hardliners in the Republican Party are still opposed to granting what they deem an ‘amnesty’ to immigrants living in the country without authorization.”

Despite the shutdown, planning for a National Day of Action on October 5th to call on Congress to pass immigration reform is moving ahead with 130 major mobilizations expected to happen in cities and towns across the country.

Environmental consequences

Rafu Shimpo, a Japanese daily news source in L.A., reported that as a result of the shutdown, the National Park Service (NPS) has closed all of its 401 national parks, including Manzanar National Historic Site, where some 10,000 Japanese-Americans were detained during World War II. Manzanar was one of ten camps that together held 110,000 Japanese-Americans. The paper also reported impacts on Tule Lake Historic Site.

The paper also reported on the loss of revenue from the park closures — $450,000 per day, including an estimated loss of $76 million per day in visitor spending in “gateway communities.”

Indian Country Today posted a story titled “No Park for You!” featuring 10 photos of closed national parks and monuments.

Colorlines reported that among government agencies, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has one of the highest percentages of furloughed employees – 90 percent of its staff — raising concern over environmental protection and oversight during the government shutdown.

Commentaries urge Obama to act tough, call for preservation of ACA

The Root’s Charles D. Ellison writes that he wanted to see Pres. Obama take a tougher stance on the budget battle and government shutdown:

“It’s his signature cool-pose style, half engineered as a way to always stand above the fray, Zen sharpened and carefully chiseled in an effort to completely blast long-standing stereotypes of angry, militant black men on a marathon head stomp…Times like these, however, call for a street-court approach. We now hunger for flashes of impatience and outrage.”

The Twin City Daily Planet argues in an op-ed that a government shutdown is bad, but having more uninsured Americans is worse.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes that the U.S. House’s proposal to keep the federal government running but delay components of health care reform would “cause 11 million more Americans to remain uninsured in 2014 and result in higher premiums for many others.”