Longest government shutdown wreaks havoc

Morgan Koehler, Reporter

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  For some, the government shutdown is not something to worry about. However, for many, this government shutdown can be a big deal in their lives. These are the people who rely on government assistance to get by everyday, food stamps and federal workers being some of the most recognized examples. Because this is the longest government shutdown to date, most Americans will be affected in some way, especially if the shutdown continues into February.

  The government has been partially shut down since December 22nd, when President Trump and Congress reached an impasse about funding for the border wall. The effects of the government shutdown is felt by many.

  Kasaundra Fellner, student at D.C. Everest Senior High, is one of the people affected by the shutdown. Her mother is a supervisor with TSA and is an essential employee who has to work without pay.

  “It’s mainly been stressful with bills but also very emotionally stressful,” she says. “On top of personal matters and her family to take care of, it hasn’t been easy on her to have another worry to hold onto.”

  Since then, nine federal departments and some smaller agencies have been affected. Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, State, Transportation and the Treasury are the nine departments affected. About 800,000 federal workers have been furloughed or are being required to work without pay.

  “Personally, the shutdown is kind of hard on me because of my mom. It’s hard because I know it upsets her and I can’t do anything to truly fix it. We’re all just waiting for something to happen,” Fellner says. “As for the actual shutdown cause, it all just makes me feel uneasy.”

  Among the other services that have been affected are airports, or more specifically, their safety. The workers in airports are furloughed or working without pay, and in a high-stress job, it will take a toll on their mental health and concentration levels.

  “On a grander scale, officers for TSA have been calling in sick in the bigger cities so they can go work other jobs and get paid,” Feller says. “Because of those situations, concourses are being closed and are causing long wait times and delays for passengers. It all just seems like a mess for TSA alone.”

  Many planes are not being inspected, and pilot training is not being certified because many FAA safety inspectors are not working.

  In addition, a passenger in Atlanta was able to get a firearm through a TSA security checkpoint earlier this month.

  However, passengers have been giving gift cards to workers in the Central Wisconsin airport for food and gas. Congressman Sean Duffy has also recently treated them with breakfast and lunch, and have given them support.

  “TSA gets a bad rep, but they are here to keep us safe so things like 9/11 are avoided. Passengers have a tendency to treat the TSA poorly sometimes, but the shutdown has at least brought out the good in some,” Fellner says.

  The air-quality monitoring is also affected. The Environmental Protection Agency manages sensors that detect different kinds of air pollution. The data is not being released to the public immediately because the EPA is not operating at full strength. The air sensors run by state agencies and private institutions are still working, however.

  Many national parks have stayed open without staff or services. Two weeks into the shutdown, the NPS announced it would dip into entrance fee funds to pay for staff and services at some parks. Entrance fees are typically earmarked for visitor services, so this announcement was unprecedented and controversial. Parks are also dealing with some of the following problems: trash, human poop, vandalism (including trees being cut down) and general anarchy.

  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has also been affected. They furloughed about 40 percent of its staff and suspended all routine inspections of food processing facilities.

  Victims of identity theft have not been able to tell the FTC because they have suspended its main online portals for identity theft and fraud claims.

  Those who rely on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) will not have to worry about their February’s share. The Department of Agriculture announced it will continue to fund SNAP through February. The USDA says it can keep playing SNAP benefits up to thirty days past the expiration of the most recent government funding resolution. SNAP recipients will get their benefits early. About one in ten Americans rely on SNAP benefits at least partially to buy food. The USDA’s other major nutrition assistance programs, fortunately, have enough funding to continue operations into February.

  The federal courts continue to run, and they estimate they will have enough money to sustain paid operations until January 18. The criminal cases are expected to continue without interruption. Immigration courts have to reschedule hearings for many thousands of people, who now have to wait several years for new hearings, including those seeking asylum.

  Survivors of domestic violence, child abuse, and other crimes could be affected well, as shelters, agencies, and nonprofits expect to run out of fed funds by Jan 18.

  Students receiving financial aid from FAFSA are trying to get the right documents in before the deadline on February 1st. Because of the government shutdown, students can’t use the IRS data retrieval to complete their FAFSA forms. However, if they have their completed tax returns, then they can take their lined items there and submit their FAFSA on time. Students will still get financial aid disbursements and the process will not be delayed. The only issue they will face is if they are not able to access their tax transcripts from the IRS.

  The U.S. Coast Guard sent a five-page tip sheet to furloughed employees suggesting they find other ways to get paid while the government shutdown continues, such as garage sales, babysitting, tutoring, among other things.

  The Department of Housing and Urban Development had to send a letter to 1,500 landlords whose tenants receive financial assistance to ask them not to evict their residents.

  Federal employees are sharing personal stories of the toll the shutdown has taken on them. A Department of Interior employee with Type 1 diabetes told NBC News that she ha had to ration her insulin because she can’t afford it and is looking for other ways to cover her bills.

  A Customs and Border Protection employee told the Detroit Free Press that he is now having to decide between buying diapers and formula for his baby or paying his mortgage.

  “There is a worry about the little things like gas and groceries. But there is a hope of staying on top of bills and hoping our insurance keeps getting paid and doesn’t lapse,” Feller says.

  More stories like these can be found through the Twitter hashtag #ShutdownStories.

  Fortunately, there are some important programs not affected by the shutdown: Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, Social Security, disability checks, veterans’ benefits, and getting passports. The U.S. Postal Service will not be affected either,  since they are an independent agency that is funded by sales of postage and services, not taxes.

  With this being the longest government shutdown in our country’s history, many are worried. However, many have been supportive of the people affected.

  “One thing that has been really amazing though, is seeing how people have responded,” Fellner says. “My mom said, ‘It makes me feel appreciated in a way. To know that some people see the good we do, and how important we can be.’”

  For however long this shutdown goes on, the people of the United States will continue to try to help those in need, but the responsibility should not be on their shoulders alone. The government needs to stop the shutdown soon before millions more are affected.


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