As the country approaches another government shutdown, military families face an uncertain financial future where they may not receive a paycheck unless a spending deal is reached in time.
Besa Pinchotti is executive director of the National Military Families Association. Her husband, Dave, is a Marine Corps veteran and currently a civilian employed by the Air Force; his salary could be affected or reduced by the closure, if it happens.
“I don’t know if my husband will get a salary,” Pinchotti told ABC News senior congressional correspondent Rachel Scott. “We go about our business hoping he will, but planning in case he doesn’t.”
A government shutdown appears increasingly likely with just days until funding expires. Lawmakers have until Sept. 30 to pass a spending deal to avert the shutdown.
Up to 4 million workers could lose wages due to a shutdown, about half of whom are soldiers and military personnel.
Pinchotti’s husband was furloughed during the government shutdown in 2019, and while the prospect of having to deal with another shutdown is daunting, she said her family will work to get through it again . Other military families may not be so lucky, she said.
“We have three kids and I feel lucky that we’re doing well, but we know that’s not the case for so many military families. And this will absolutely impact them in a way that I hope we don’t have to see,” she said. .
For some military families, this can mean losing the services they rely on: from nutritional assistance to health care, mental health care, after-school activities for their children and even daycare.
Access to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, commonly known as WIC, is something that Pinchotti said will have a “huge impact” on many military families. Some 7 million women, infants, and children rely on WIC.
“There are WIC offices on military installations all over the world because it is an essential nutrition for families at a key time in their development. So not having one will have a huge impact.” , she said. “We know that millions and millions – more than half of American families rely on WIC and for military families, that’s a huge number as well. So we expect this to be a serious problem.”
Resources could be even more limited for military families who live paycheck to paycheck, Pinchotti said. And while service members may face back pay, some families can’t afford to miss a paycheck, she said.
“I don’t think much of the country understands how tight the military budget is and the fact that so many people are living paycheck to paycheck,” she said. “For example, over 25% of military families are food insecure. And when you know that fact, and you know what might be affected and you know that your service member may get paid, but maybe not for now. You really have to think about what’s going to happen today or next week.
Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., said the impact of the shutdown would be “minimal” for many Americans.
“We need to worry about all 330 million Americans, not just isolated stories and specific individuals,” Good told Rachel Scott.
He said the need to cut spending justified the closure: “Now is the time to do it if we don’t do it now.”
Good, who has more than 5,000 federal workers in his district alone, said it was absolutely worth shutting down the government because of his and other hard-liners’ demands.
A recent “Pulse Check” survey of its members conducted by Blue Star Families found that most active duty families – 54% – said they would be “significantly impacted” by a government shutdown. In open-ended responses from more than 600 respondents, many cited compensation as the most common concern.
“My husband is the only working parent, we will have no income. It seems better and better to get out and join the private sector!” one respondent wrote in the survey, Blue Star Families said.
Pinchotti said that in talking with many military families, the impact would not be “minimal,” as Good put it.
“My message to Congress is: ‘Come together.’ “It’s not fair what you’re doing to military families,” she said. “Besides our military, we also have 16,000 military spouses who work for the federal government. And in today’s society “Today, it really takes two incomes to make ends meet. So you’re talking about the livelihood of military families, and they have to put it together.”