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10.01.2019 10:28 News >> US Government Shutdown: What You Need To Know

US Government Shutdown: What You Need To Know

National parks forced to shutter, cultural institutions unable to operate, some home buyers left in limbo.

Roughly 800,000 federal workers across the U.S. face an impossible choice as Democrats and President Donald Trump wrangle over funding for his long-promised border wall.

The president has called for lawmakers to provide him with $5.7 billion to pay for the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border that he initially vowed to have Mexico fund.

But Democrats, now in control of the House of Representatives and vital to pushing any legislation through the Senate, have rejected Trump's proposal, arguing a wall is expensive and inadequate to secure the southern border.

Trump has sought to convince the American people otherwise, using a prime-time Oval Office address to argue that his wall is essential to U.S. national security.

Neither side has backed down, and Trump has worked with the backing of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to stymy legislation to reopen the government that does not include funding for his separation barrier.

As the impasse continues with no end in sight, many of the men and women who make up the backbone of the federal workforce are being forced to either work without pay if their roles are deemed "essential" or stay home from work as the partial government shutdown prepares to hit its fourth week Friday.

The shutdown is already the second longest in U.S. history at 20 days -- one day short of tying the record set in 1995. It is highly likely to do so -- and drag on longer -- with all sides entrenched in their positions.

The last shutdown, which occurred in January 2018, lasted just three days with most others enduring for about as long.

- Federal workers in economic limbo as agencies falter

Without a paycheck expected in the coming weeks, bills for some workers have begun to pile up, with some opting to pursue part-time work as Uber drivers or take on other odd jobs.

Some have also reportedly called out sick from work in protest as they face growing economic uncertainty, with others threatening to quit.

For the bureaucracies they staff, the effects could be, in some cases, disastrous.

The departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, State, Transportation and Treasury have all been hindered by the shutdown, as has the Internal Revenue Service and Securities and Exchange Commission.

Still, six of the 15 federal agencies, including the Defense Department, are operating normally as they have been funded through the fiscal year that ends in September.

But Hydrick Thomas, president of the union that represents employees of the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, warned that several officers have already left the agency while "many" more employees are considering quitting.

The effects of en masse resignations as the agency already copes with non-shutdown-related shortages in staffing "will create a massive security risk for American travelers since we don't have enough trainees in the pipeline or the ability to process new hires", Thomas said.

"We're risking losing them by offering no pay for long hours and dangerous work," he said. "Congress and the administration must get their priorities right and reopen the government so we can pay these officers for the work they've done and not risk losing any more than we already have."

But the agency responsible for ensuring the safety of America's traveling public is not alone in feeling the effects of the political standoff.

The National Parks Service has been forced to temporarily shutter California's Joshua Tree National Park over the budget deadlock as it faces a shortage of rangers to patrol and care for the pristine habitats it is tasked with protecting.

The decision to close Joshua Tree -- originally announced to last throughout the shutdown's duration but later limited to the week's end -- came after a handful of park rangers were unable to prevent damage to the park's signature foliage, stop illegal off-road driving or cope with a worsening waste problem as the shutdown dragged on.

The government-funded Smithsonian Institution has shuttered all of the museums it administers as well as the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. due to the lapse in funding.

The institution had endeavored to keep its doors open during the busy Christmas to New Year's holiday season but promptly shut down on Jan. 2.

Home buyers, low-income individuals on receiving end of political deadlock

For individuals in rural communities seeking a home loan that requires a federal sign-off, the process has come to a near-complete halt if it began before Dec. 22 -- the date the shutdown took effect. And the process cannot even begin for those who sought to start it after the shutdown began.

Meanwhile, those who rely on federal government-funded food assistance may have their access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program disrupted in March.

The longer the shutdown lasts, the more its effects will ripple across the country.

But for now, at least, there is no outline for a resolution anywhere on the horizon, leaving many to live in a seemingly endless limbo. -



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