Shutdown nears a month: Here's what you need to know

Shutdown nears a month: Here's what you need to know
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The longest government shutdown in U.S. history is set to reach a new milestone as it nears the one-month mark.

The partial shutdown has affected nine federal agencies, as well as several smaller offices, leading to hundreds of thousands of federal employees being furloughed or required to work without pay.

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President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Dems demand Barr cancel 'inappropriate' press conference on Mueller report DOJ plans to release 'lightly redacted' version of Mueller report Thursday: WaPo Nadler accuses Barr of 'unprecedented steps' to 'spin' Mueller report MORE has not budged from his demand for border wall funding, and congressional Democrats are equally dug in on their refusal to provide that money.

As the shutdown that began Dec. 22 moves closer to entering its second month, here are some of the people, places and aspects of life around the country affected by the impasse in Washington.

Federal workers and contractors

Roughly 800,000 federal missed their first full paycheck on Jan. 11, and they are set to miss a second consecutive paycheck on Friday. While Trump signed a bill guaranteeing workers will be paid in full when the shutdown ends, an increasing number of employees are finding it hard to pay their bills.

Lawmakers in both chambers have introduced legislation that would offer a range of financial remedies, such as providing workers with interest-free loans during the shutdown, removing tax penalties for accessing retirement accounts and paying “essential” workers before the shutdown ends. So far, none of the bills has advanced.

Contractors who have been furloughed have been harder hit in some ways since they are not guaranteed any back pay once the government fully reopens. Senate Democrats introduced a bill that would provide back pay to low-wage contractors, up to a certain amount, but that measure has not advanced either.

Airports

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has reported a spike in employees not showing up for work. On Thursday, TSA said 6.4 percent of its workforce was absent, most of them citing financial hardship. That’s almost double the 3.8 percent that called out at the same time last year. Ever since TSA officers missed their first paycheck, the number of absentee agency workers has hovered close to 7 percent.

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The number of security checkpoints at several airports has diminished, prompting delays for many travelers as the remaining lines grow longer. On Thursday, major airports for Atlanta, Minneapolis and Seattle all had wait times in excess of 30 minutes.

Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, one the world’s busiest, has had wait times as long as 90 minutes on some days since the shutdown began, prompting concerns about how the city will handle the influx of visitors for the Super Bowl on Feb. 3.

Additionally, postponed training sessions are deepening the backlog of air traffic controllers awaiting certification.

State Department, visas, work permits

The State Department recently called back its workforce for the next pay period, saying it found reserves to cover their salaries, though it won’t pay employees for the missed time that started Dec. 22. Instead, they will receive a paycheck after completing the next two weeks of work.

“As a national security agency, it is imperative that the Department of State carries out its mission,” Deputy Under Secretary for Management Bill Todd said in a statement. “We are best positioned to do so with fully staffed embassies, consulates, and domestic offices.”

Throughout the shutdown, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has continued to provide fee-based work permits. Immigrant investor regional centers that support foreign investment have been closed, and the E-Verify system employers use to ensure new hires have legal standing ground to a halt.

Farmers

With the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) closed, farmers have been cut off from many of the resources they rely on for production. They are cut off from billions of dollars in loans that are often obtained ahead of the growing season, as well certain types of insurance, and there are no government market reports that help farmers determine the best production levels.

The administration has said it will temporarily bring back 2,500 furloughed workers to open local Farm Service Agency offices and process some paperwork and loans already on file. It has also delayed the deadline for applying for aid to help dampen the effects of the trade wars, which have hit farmers hard. Even with the extension, new applicants aren’t eligible to receive aid until after the shutdown ends.

If the shutdown persists through February, the agency will run out of money for food stamps, which could create a crisis for the millions of low-income recipients.

IRS

With tax filing season set to begin on Jan. 28, the IRS is headed into its busiest part of the year with a significant portion of its staff furloughed or working without pay, raising the possibility that millions of Americans will receive their tax refunds later than usual. The IRS said it would expand its unpaid workforce to 46,000 — less than 60 percent of its full staff.

But that move has failed to tamp down concern, especially since 2019 will be the first tax filing season to include a full year of the 2017 GOP tax law, which is expected to result in new challenges for filers, accountants and tax preparers.

Food and safety inspections

Several key agencies have scaled back or put their inspection programs on hold as a result of the shutdown. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for example, reduced inspections of high-risk facilities, but later announced that it would restart them. The FDA is largely relying on a pool of money from fees to fund some of its inspections, including those dealing with pharmaceuticals. Commissioner Scott Gottlieb on Friday said those could soon run out.

“We’ve had to make hard decisions in the last month to preserve key functions to maintain our critical consumer protection role,” Gottlieb said in prepared testimony to Congress. “As our user fee programs begin to run out of money, we have many hard decisions ahead of us.”

The Environmental Protection Agency, which had enough money to keep running for about a week into the shutdown, has had to scale back or halt activities such as hazardous waste cleanup at Superfund sites, inspections at power plants, and reviewing pesticides and toxic substances.

Meanwhile, pauses in emergency work and preventive action such as fire management raises the risk of costly disasters and mishaps down the road.

Courts

Federal courts have had enough money to stay open, but they are nearing the point where they will have to scale back operations or close completely, delaying some cases until after the government reopens. They have already postponed most cases involving the Justice Department, which remains unfunded.

The courts initially expected to run out of fees in early January, but this past week said there was enough cash available to maintain operations through Jan. 25.

Even the Supreme Court could suffer. While justices will continue to be paid during the shutdown, as stipulated in the Constitution, other employees will not.

Housing

Contract renewals with the Department of Housing and Urban Development for low-income housing have been on hold since the shutdown began, leading to a funding shortfall for building repairs and maintenance.

As the shutdown drags on, programs that subsidize housing for the elderly and disabled may run out of money.

Loans processed through the Federal Housing Administration are delayed, while special mortgages for rural homebuyers provided by the USDA are unavailable.

The economy

For every unpaid worker and contractor, delayed permit, slowed construction project, postponed court hearing for business and absent loan, there are spillover effects weighing on the economy.

Food workers and taxi drivers who rely on federal workers as customers have seen their businesses plummet, while economic activity that relies on permits and government-backed loans is slowing.

Consumer confidence has plunged during the shutdown, hitting its lowest point since Trump was elected.

On Friday, New York Federal Reserve President John Williams estimated that the shutdown could lop as much as 1 percentage point off growth, a significant amount considering that the Trump White House has made a goal of consistent 3 percent growth. The White House this past week projected that the shutdown would trim 0.13 points off growth for every week the government is shuttered.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Friday was among 385 businesses and groups that signed a letter to Congress and the White House demanding an end to the shutdown.

"The current shutdown — now the longest in American history — is causing significant and in some cases lasting damage to families, businesses, and the economy as a whole," the letter read.