The shutdown that has stopped funding for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Indian Health Service (IHS), EPA and other major agencies is now the longest government shutdown on record.
“We fear a prolonged shutdown will cause needless suffering and have long-lasting health consequences,” the groups said in their letter. “Basic health protections could be endangered by an ongoing shutdown.”
They emphasized the role the FDA plays in public health as it oversees 80% of the nation’s food supply, responsible for the inspections that help forestall foodborne illness.
The letter also warns about the lapses in programs funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the nutritional program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
SNAP is currently covered through February, according to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, thanks to temporary funding. The cost is about $4.8 billion to pay for about 38 million people.
The letter also warns about the health fallout for the 800,000 furloughed federal workers who are currently going without pay.
“Residents simply cannot maintain their health without stable housing, food and medical care,” the groups said.