"What We Have Is Going to Be Gone": How Trump Shutdown Is Affecting Millions of Americans

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“In New Jersey alone, 1,000 workers have filed for unemployment - but are unlikely to receive benefits because they are still technically employed. Others are using food banks or are applying for free school meals and food stamps, while struggling to make mortgage payments.”  

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Donald Trump has shut down all or part of the nine departments of the US Federal Government, demanding $5.7 billion in funding for his $25 billion Wall with Mexico.

The closure is now in its record-setting 34th day. Trump has rejected Congressional measures - just before the shutdown on December 21 and again on January 3 - to reopen the Government. The bills provide $1.3 billion for border security, but no funds for a Wall seen by many as a useless vanity project.

The White House is not budging. Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney has written agencies to ask which programs are at risk if the shutdown continues through April.

So, beyond the headlines about Trump's latest tweet or the cancellation of his State of the Union address, what are some of the effects upon millions of Americans?

*About 800,000 federal employees are on furlough or are working without pay.

The Administration has advised the staff to ask for relief from landlords and creditors.

Maureen Smith, a technician at the Federal Aviation Administration: “This weekend my father bought us food. My mother put gas in my car. What we have - me and my husband have - in savings is going to be gone. How am I going to buy diapers?”

In New Jersey alone, 1,000 workers have filed for unemployment - but are unlikely to receive benefits because they are still technically employed.

Others are using food banks or are applying for free school meals and food stamps, while struggling to make mortgage payments.

Haley Hernandez, an active duty member of the Coast Guard: “Honestly, it’s pretty shameful, I feel, that any government employee would have to ask for food stamps or any kind of assistance like that. You would think that they would take better care of their service members.”

Studies have found that the average federal worker has only enough cash or liquid assets to cover eight days of their average household spending. The bottom third of the group has an average combined checking and savings account balance of zero on the day before a paycheck arrived.

*Airport security and safety are at risk. Up to 10% of Transportation Security Administration staff calling in sick as they seek alternative jobs to make ends meet.

Airlines are losing more than $100 million a month in revenue.

Unions for air traffic controllers, pilots, and flight attendants: "We cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play, nor predict the point at which the entire system will break.”

*Farmers cannot apply for subsidies, with Government offices closed since December 28. Federal loan applications  are not being processed, and information sites are not maintained.

*Contractors are at risk because government payments are not being made. The General Services Administration, which manages contracts, has notified departments that it has no plan for rents and leases in February.

*The FBI says its investigations are being affected, with a possible risk to national security.

Tom O'Connor, President, FBI Agents Association: "[This] is making it more difficult for us to do our jobs, to protect the people of our country from criminals and terrorists."

*Funding for all non-essential staff at 94 Federal District Courts will halt on February 1. Civil cases will be suspended, and there could be delays in criminal proceedings.

*Federal prisons are under strain.

Prison union chief Joe Rojas: "We're not getting paid, and the inmates are eating steak [at a Christmas holidays meal]. The inmates know what's going on; they know about the shutdown, and they are laughing at us."

*The Food and Drug Administration has stopped all non-essential inspections and testing.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb: "It's not business as usual...There are important things we are not doing.”

*The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has delayed preparations for hurricanes. Forecast model updates, emergency trainings, and field experiments have been halted.

*Security certificates have not been renewed for more than official websites including those of the US Department of Justice, the Court of Appeals, and NASA.

*The handling of $140 billion in tax refunds could be affected, despite the Administration ordering 30,000 Internal Revenue Service personnel to work without pay. Hundreds have refused, using a "hardship" clause in their contracts.

Will Kohler, an IRS tax examiner: “When it gets to a point where government employees have to go to a food bank, this is not the America that I grew up in. It’s mind-boggling. It really is.”

*Coast Guard personnel have been ordered to work without pay.

A "tip sheet" for about 8,500 staff includes suggestions such as having a garage sale or turning hobbies into money-making activities.

*National Parks are unstaffed. Volunteers are trying to collect refuse, but waste is building up, roads are unsafe, and vandals have attacked sites such as Joshua Tree National Park in southern California.

The Smithsonian's museums are shut, and New York City is providing the funds to keep open the Statue of Liberty.

*Research has stopped at agencies like the National Science Foundation.

*NASA cannot fix the Hubble Space Telescope.

Homepage image: Senate Democrats, ATC_Rally_011019, Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

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