Congress and the President Should Act to End the Government Shutdown and Restore Critical Health Services


(Washington, DC – January 4, 2019) – With the government shutdown nearing the two-week point, Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) calls on Congress and the President to act immediately to reopen the government and restore critical services that impact our nation’s health.

Protecting the public’s health is one of the most basic responsibilities of government. While most parts of the Department of Health & Human Services remain open, several of its critical agencies have been impacted, including the Indian Health Service (IHS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This shutdown is already having a serious detrimental impact on health around the country:

  • The FDA, which safeguards our food, medicine, medical devices and more, has furloughed as much as 40 percent of its staff. While “mission critical” activities, such as food safety inspections and surveillance, are continuing during the shutdown, new drug and device applications and other work has been suspended.
  • Many services provided to tribal nations have been impacted, like preventive health clinics, food pantries, and payments for employees who provide basic services. Patient health care could be significantly cut back if the shutdown continues.
  • The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), which protects the public from hazardous substances and other environmental health threats, is continuing emergency services but will be unable to update health exposure assessments, provide technical assistance and support to state and local partners nor carry out professional training. ATSDR is located at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but funded through the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • While the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program is still open for business, agencies will need to tap into reserves should the shutdown continue beyond January, threatening critical nutrition assistance which the nation’s most at-risk families depend on.
  • Nutrition programs such as School Lunch, School Breakfast, Child and Adult Care Feeding, Summer Food Service and Special Milk will also need to stop operations if the shutdown extends into February.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency’s capacity for ensuring safe drinking water and regulating dangerous pesticides will also be limited. According to the agency, more than 13,000 workers have been furloughed and an additional 700 employees are working without pay, including those who work on Superfund sites or other activities where the “threat to life or property is imminent.”

A prolonged shutdown will put the health and safety of all the nation’s residents at risk. Americans should be able to rely on their government to provide these services without fail. Trust for America’s Health calls on Congress and the President to reopen the government while working on a deal to complete work on FY 2019 spending bills.


Rhea Farberman 202 864-5941 [email protected]