- The government shutdown is now in day 19 and shows no sign of ending.
- The shutdown is already having an effect on government agencies, including closures and delays.
- But as the shutdown drags on, the effects will only get worse.
- Millions of Americans could start losing access to rent assistance and food stamps, airport security will get worse, and damage to national parks could increase.
The shutdown, which Trump kicked off by refusing a bipartisan, short-term funding extension before Christmas, appears poised to challenge the record for the longest federal funding lapse in the modern budgeting era.
Already, the shutdown is starting to affect federal departments that are currently without funding. Everything from the National Zoo’s panda cam to paychecks for hundred of thousands of federal workers have become affected.
As the shutdown drags on, the fallout will only get worse. Many key programs are running on reserve funds during the month of January. When those wells run dry, everything from rent assistance to food stamps could be cut off.
Here are a few examples of how a lengthy shutdown could get worse:
- Federal workers and contractors are going to start missing paychecks: Paychecks for 800,000 federal workers covering the latter half of December went out at the start of January, but without a funding bill these workers will not get their next paycheck on January 15.
- 40 million Americans could lose SNAP benefits:The US Deparment of Agriculture has said that Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, has enough funding to get through January. The USDA also has a reserve fund of $US3 billion for February, but the program costs around $US4.7 billion a month. This means the more than 20 million households receiving assistance could start to go without aid next month. Other food programs including the USDA’s Child Nutrition Programs will also run out of funding in February.
- Americans depending on rent assistance could be evicted: The Department of Housing and Urban Development sent a letter to more than 1,500 landlords who have tenants that utilise rent assistance programs asking owners not to evict those tenants. According to The Washington Post, HUD officials didn’t even realise the funding for those programs would lapse and were taken by surprise. Additionally, as NBC News reported, HUD has suspended health and safety inspections for low-income housing that receives funding from the agency.
- Deteriorating airport security:Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers are currently working without pay during the shutdown.According to TSA union officials, some employees are starting to call in sick. The number of absent workers appears to already be taking a toll on wait times at some airports.
- Air travel could get less safe: Federal Aviation Administration employees are working without pay, including air traffic controllers. Representatives for pilot unions have warned that the lack of oversight for critical safety equipment during the shutdown will also make flying riskier.
- A possible delay in tax refunds: While the Trump administration has said tax refunds will continue to go out during the shutdown, it is unclear if there is legal justification for the move. Depending on the legal standing for the administration’s decision, millions of Americans filing their 2018 tax returns could see a delay in refunds.
- National parks could get worse: At National Parks across the US, human waste is already piling up as many areas are understaffed or not monitored. The Interior Department has authorised parks to use money from entrance fees to cover cleaning expenses, a move that is legally questionable. There have also been multiple reports of damaged wildlife due to a lack of patrols, and parks have begun to close some areas due to safety concerns. These parks could also decide to close entirely, as many did during the 2013 shutdown, to prevent further degradation of the lands.
- Food safety inspections could get worse:While the USDA’s inspections of meat, diary, and eggs are ongoing during the shutdown, the inspectors are not receiving pay which experts say could lead to worse results. The USDA even admits in its shutdown plan that “a lengthy hiatus would affect the safety of human life.” Almost all of the Food and Drug Administration’s food inspection functions, which do routine inspections of all foods not covered by the USDA, are also ceased. According ot watchdogs, this increases the chances of a food poisoning outbreak.
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