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6 Ramifications of the Longest Government Shutdown in American History

President Trump’s stalemate over border wall funding has now made it more dangerous to fly and weakened our food inspection infrastructure

The Capitol Dome is visible behind signs as Air Traffic and Pilot unions protest the government shutdown on Capitol Hill in WashingtonGovernment Shutdown, Washington, USA - 10 Jan 2019

The Capitol Dome is visible behind signs as Air Traffic and Pilot unions protest the government shutdown on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Andrew Harnik/AP/REX/Shutterstock

As of January 12th, the United States will be without a fully functioning government for the longest stretch in the nation’s history. The milestone will come a day after 800,000 federal employees did not receive their paychecks — and as hundreds of senior Trump appointees enjoy a bump to theirs — but the shutdown will affect far more than those working for the government. The programs that have been defunded provide vital services that benefit all Americans, from those who want to enjoy the nation’s national parks, to those who rely on the USDA to provide them with food stamps.

Here are six key ramifications of the government shutdown, which has shown no signs of coming to a close as of this writing.

Federal employees are without pay

The most obvious consequence of the government shutting down is that 800,000 federal workers — some of whom have been furloughed, some of whom will continue to work — will not receive their paychecks. To assist federal employees not being paid while the government is shut down, the Office of Personnel Management provided templates for how these employees can relay to landlords, creditors and mortgage companies.

Among the ways the OPM advised furloughed workers to placate their landlords during the shutdown was to offer to perform physical labor in lieu of paying rent. The office later said that the templates were posted in error, citing that the OPM is “itself acting with limited resources during the furlough period.”

On Friday, the House of Representatives approved a bill that ensures back pay for the federal employees missing paychecks during the shutdown. The bill passed by a vote of 411-7. Each of the seven representatives to vote against it were Republican. “He will never let you down!” Trump wrote in August while endorsing Ted Yoho (R-FL), one of the dissenters.

National parks are in disarray

Federal employees of America’s national parks have also been furloughed during the shutdown, leaving some of the nation’s most majestic public land unsupervised. In California’s Joshua Tree National Park, the lack of on-site staff emboldened vandals to cut down a tree to access a sensitive area.

Though the Department of the Interior has instructed the Park Service to keep parks open to the extent that is possible, the National Park Conservation Association estimates $400,000 in entrance fees is being lost per day. Also taking a financial hit are the public museums in Washington, D.C., but one attraction that has remained open and staffed with Park Service employees is the clock tower inside the historic Old Post Office, a federal building the government leases to the Trump Organization to operate the Trump International Hotel. On Thursday, Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) sent a letter to the Trump administration asking for an explanation. “As the clock tower at Trump International Hotel in Washington stands open, staffed by NPS personnel, valuable public buildings such as the Smithsonian stand shuttered,” Peters wrote. “Meanwhile, mounting trash and unsafe conditions at national park sites across the country are putting people and wildlife in jeopardy.”

Food stamps will eventually run out

The tens of millions of Americans who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the nation’s food stamp program, could be hurting if the shutdown persists much longer. Though the Department of Agriculture, which oversees SNAP, is not receiving funding during the shutdown, food stamp services will continue through the end of February. But that’s it. USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the news on Tuesday, making sure to throw in a dig at congressional Democrats.

Though it may seem unlikely that what is already the longest government shutdown in American history could extend for another month, no progress has been made reaching a deal to re-open it, and Trump has said last week that it could last for “months or even years.”

FEMA has told contractors to stop working

Hundreds of FEMA contractors that were doing disaster preparedness work have been told to pack it in while the government is shut down.

On Tuesday, Trump threatened to cut off federal money being used to help California combat wildfires, claiming that the state is not taking proper precautions to prevent their outbreak. According to McClatchy, firefighters are now unable to train to fight fires because of the shutdown. “This is the second year in a row we’ve had a shutdown right in the middle of the [firefighter] training season,” Jim Whittington, a former U.S. Bureau of Land Management employee who now runs a crisis management consulting firm told the outlet. “The last thing we want is for fires to break out, and not have the kind of crews we need to to field.”

Flying is more dangerous

Last week, CNN reported that hundreds of TSA agents who have been asked to work without pay called in sick to work. At least four major airports, including JFK in New York City and DFW in Dallas, have faced this issue. “This will definitely affect the flying public who we [are] sworn to protect,” TSA union president Hydrick Thomas told CNN. Trump responded by calling the story #FakeNews while calling CNN a member of the opposition party. “CNN spoke to numerous TSA & union officials & cited data provided by unions for our report,” the network tweeted in response. “TSA itself put out a statement acknowledging increased call-outs after we published. @spoxdhs & @realdonaldtrump may not like the truth but that won’t stop us from reporting.”

On Thursday, Miami International Airport announced it will close a terminal for three days because of a shortage of TSA workers. “Due to an increased number of TSA screeners not reporting to work, we have decided to take this precautionary step and relocate about 12 flights to adjoining concourses in the afternoons,” said airport spokesperson Greg Chin.

Elsewhere in the world of aviation, the Air Line Pilots Association, which represents 61,000 pilots, sent a letter to Trump urging him to end the shutdown. “I am writing to urge you to take the necessary steps to immediately end the shutdown of government agencies that is adversely affecting the safety, security and efficiency of our national airspace system,” wrote ALPA president Joe DePete. “The nation’s airspace system is a complex transportation network that involves government and industry partnerships to function properly, and the disruptions being caused by the shutdown are threatening the safe operations of this network.”

Food inspection has lapsed

On Wednesday, Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced that the shutdown has forced the FDA to suspend safety inspections on food with a high risk of being contaminatied, including fruits, vegetables and seafood. “Americans should not have to be concerned about whether the food they’re feeding to their kids and their families is safe just because President @realDonaldTrump shut down the government,” tweeted Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

“It. Is. Time. To. Re-open. The. Government,” Schumer added. “Now.”

In This Article: Donald Trump

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