The latest negotiations to end the partial government shutdown ended with President Donald Trump telling House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “bye-bye” and walking out of the room Wednesday — posturing Pelosi said was a “setup.” The president is visiting the southern border Thursday during a partial government shutdown that began Dec. 22 and could end up being the longest in recent history.
Around 800,000 federal government workers are furloughed or working without pay, and the shutdown is affecting many more Americans — though the government has taken steps to limit harm wherever possible. Friday is the first payday for the affected workers without a paycheck.
A total of nine federal agencies have a lapse in funding, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Treasury Department, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Agriculture.
Many routine and critical functions performed by the agencies under these departments are affected by the shutdown. Here’s a look at some of those:
Food Safety Inspections
According to The Washington Post, FDA inspectors have suspended routine inspections of domestic food-processing facilities. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told The Post he is working on a plan to bring back workers to continue inspections at facilities deemed “high-risk.” In a series of tweets on Wednesday, Gottlieb said 31 percent of the agency’s domestic inspections are considered high-risk, including those of foods like seafood, dairy products, and fresh fruits and vegetables. In another tweet, Gottlieb said the agency would not have conducted inspections around Christmas and New Year’s,so the week starting Jan. 7 was the first when some inspections might have been postponed as the FDA works to continue high-risk inspections.
CNN reported that during the first week of January, hundreds of TSA officers working without pay called out sick from work. In a statement following the CNN report, TSA said that the call-outs began over the holiday and have increased, but said they are having minimal impact. The statement said that wait times may be affected due to short staffing, but screening times remain within the agency’s standards. The TSA’s assistant administrator for public affairs said on Wednesday that there has been no degradation is security effectiveness and wait times have not been affected. The head of the worker’s union representing the TSA said in a statement this week that some TSA workers have already quit and many are considering quitting.
“The loss of officers, while we’re already shorthanded, 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,” the AFGE TSA Council president Hydrick Thomas said. “Our TSOs already do an amazing job without the proper staffing levels, but if this keeps up there are problems that will arise – least of which would be increased wait times for travelers.”
The FBI agent’s association sent a petition to the White House and Congress on Thursday, explaining how missed paychecks for agents could have an affect. The petition explained that since FBI agents are subject to routine financial background checks, missed payments on debts could create delays in securing or renewing security clearances or even disqualify agents from continuing to serve. The FBI leadership is funding operations with limited resources and the petition called the situation “not sustainable.” Lastly, the petition said pay uncertainty undermines the agency’s abilities to recruit and retain talent.
The NTSB has not been able to send workers to investigate 12 transportation incidents during the government shutdown, according to Politico. The investigations will begin after the shutdown, Politico reported.
Tax Filing and Refunds
While the IRS’ contingency plan said refunds would not be paid during a government shutdown, the agency announced that tax season would begin Jan. 28 and refunds would go out as scheduled.
“We are committed to ensuring that taxpayers receive their refunds notwithstanding the government shutdown. I appreciate the hard work of the employees and their commitment to the taxpayers during this period,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a statement.
The USDA said that Americans who rely on food stamp (SNAP) benefits would have access through the month of February despite the shutdown. To facilitate this, the USDA is instructing states to request early issuance of benefits for February. States have until Jan. 20 to request and implement the early issuance.
The country’s national parks are likely the most visual casualty of the government shutdown, with parks reportedly filling up with garbage and dirty public toilets. Joshua Tree in Southern California had to temporarily close this week so staff could “address sanitation, safety and resource protection issues.” According to a statement from NPS, there have been incidents of visitors destroying Joshua trees in recent days. Trash collection, roadwork and sanitation services in D.C. area parks resumed on Thursday.
The Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo closed on Jan. 2 after remaining open through New Year’s day using prior-year funding. Online visitors to the zoo are also missing the popular Panda Cam.
The Associated Press contributed.
Photo: House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., center on stage, gestures while speaking to union members and other federal employees at a rally to call for an end to the partial government shutdown, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, at AFL-CIO Headquarters in Washington. Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press