Shaheen roundtable discussions ‘sound the alarm’ on consequences of defaulting on federal debt 

  • Senator Shaheen met with nonprofit leaders on Wednesday to discuss the consequences of a potential U.S. default on federal debt. Nina Moske—

Monitor staff
Published: 5/26/2023 3:46:05 PM
Modified: 5/26/2023 3:45:51 PM

Amber MacQuarrie, a single mother of two, cried as she shared her experiences with homelessness, food insecurity, and disability,

MacQuarrie, who once ran a daycare business out of her home in Manchester, became homeless and jobless after her rent got too expensive.

“My then-nine-year-old cried when we were discussing having to live in the van because she was convinced that we couldn’t find a place to live because landlords must not have liked her… that it must be her fault,” she said during a roundtable discussion with non-profit leaders and U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen this week. “I went from completely self-sufficient to 100% dependent on the state.”

She relied on the types of federal assistance programs that could be crippled if the country defaults on its debt. As a volunteer with MomsRising, which advocates for issues facing women, she’s spoken out on other issues in the past, like state efforts to reauthorize expanded Medicaid.

MacQuarrie is no longer homeless and now works for a book distribution company. She said she worries that a default on federal debt would hit New Hampshire’s most vulnerable families the hardest.

“The idea of cutting those sorts of services means that as bad as it is, it’s going to get so much worse,” said MacQuarrie. “And right now the ripples are bad enough, but the waves would be detrimental.”

Shaheen hosted a series of meetings around the state this week to highlight some of the possible consequences if the country defaults on its debt. In Concord, she met with state leaders at NH Hunger Solutions in Concord to “sound the alarm” with a deadline looming for Congress to raise the debt ceiling.

“To inflict this kind of a wound on America and our citizens… it’s unconscionable,” Shaheen said.

Days from a June 1 deadline, President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy are narrowing in on a two-year budget deal that would begin to curb federal deficits in exchange for lifting the nation’s debt ceiling and avoiding a government default. The president and Republican speaker hope to strike a budget compromise this weekend.

“The only way to move forward is with a bipartisan agreement,” Biden said Thursday. “And I believe we’ll come to an agreement that allows us to move forward and protects the hardworking Americans of this country.”

Shaheen, a former New Hampshire governor, focused on the consequences of a default for Granite Staters who rely on federal assistance programs. In a state where 33% of the budget is federally funded, she said, the impact would be “catastrophic.” Nonprofit leaders in the room agreed.

Laura Milliken, an executive director at NH Hunger Solutions, told the group that in April, 480,000 New Hampshire residents lived in households that reported having insufficient food in the last week, according to data from the Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey.

“The charitable food system is overwhelmed by demand for help with meeting New Hampshire families’ nutritional needs right now” she said.

Proposed cuts to federal assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Medicaid would “significantly worsen hunger for poor families in our state.”

She said Republican efforts to add more work requirements to federal programs would place further strain on struggling New Hampshire families, she said.

“Evidence shows work requirements take assistance needed to afford food away from a large number of people, while having no impact on employment outcomes,” Milliken said.

MacQuarrie said that her experiences with the “red tape” surrounding federal assistance programs illustrate Milliken’s point. When she was homeless, she said, finding a job, finding housing and caring for her daughter’s physical disability became a full-time job.

“I wanted to work, and I was applying to jobs like you wouldn’t believe,” she said. “Nobody is sitting around just collecting these sort of benefits…If we can work, we do, because the alternative is to not eat.”

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.)

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