'Trump Shutdown' Has Put 2.2 Million Households 'At Risk of Eviction,' Senators Warn

Democratic senators are sounding the alarm on the dire impact the ongoing government shutdown could have on millions of low-income households.

"Because of the #TrumpShutdown, an estimated 2.2 million low-income households are among those at risk of eviction from their homes," Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington said on Twitter. "For the sake of the families whose homes are at stake, this shutdown must end."

The federally funded Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program helps more than 2.2 million low-income families pay for housing in the private market. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which runs the program, is closed during the shutdown. Portable rental vouchers are funded until March.

On January 18, Cantwell was one of about 170 congressional leaders to sign a letter urging President Donald Trump to reopen HUD to safeguard rental-assistance programs.

"This partial shutdown is undermining both the short-term operations and long-term viability of our affordable housing programs that serve over four million Americans, the majority of whom are seniors and people with disabilities living on a fixed income," the letter states. "For the sake of the families whose homes are at stake, we urge you to end the shutdown and protect the American people."

Since the partial shutdown began on December 22, HUD has been "forced to scramble to find funds to renew federal contracts for over 650 project-based rental assistance properties that house tens of thousands of low-income renters across the country," a statement from Cantwell's office states.

Among those at risk of eviction are "thousands of veterans, seniors and people living with disabilities," her office added.

Because of the #TrumpShutdown, an estimated 2.2 million low-income households are among those at risk of eviction from their homes. For the sake of the families whose homes are at stake, this shutdown must end.https://t.co/RwAlnbV5xu

— Sen. Maria Cantwell (@SenatorCantwell) January 24, 2019

In their letter, the Congress members warn that additional contracts are also set to expire in late January and February, adding that HUD does not have the funding to renew the contracts while the government is shut down.

HUD has proposed that private owners "use their individual funding reserves, where available, to cover shortfalls," the letter states. "The longer the shutdown continues, the more untenable this guidance becomes."

The Congress members also warn that the lapse in federal funding is "curbing economic growth as more Americans are unable to purchase homes due to the Federal Housing Authority's delay in processing loans."

On Wednesday, a top economic adviser to Trump acknowledged that the U.S. economy could end up with zero growth in the gross domestic product this quarter if the government shutdown continues.

White House Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Kevin Hassett said during a CNN interview that while he was not overly concerned about the long-term effects of the shutdown, it was possible that the economy could show no growth in the first quarter. Hassett did say, however, that the economy could bounce back in the second quarter if the government has reopened by then.

Still, the Congress members argued in their letter that "the American people should not be used as leverage, or be held hostage, to fulfill a political agenda."

"The longer we extend the shutdown, the more harm will be done to seniors, families with children, people with disabilities, and other Americans who rely on these programs," their letter states. "In these times of uncertainty and tension, we must continue to prioritize the American people. We owe it to the people we serve to choose their best interest over politics."

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Federal employees holding empty plates stage a rally on Capitol Hill to call for a vote on the shutdown on January 23. In a letter to President Donald Trump, Democrats have warned that the shutdown is intensifying the nation's affordable housing crisis. JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty