Story & Photo by Hollye Carroll, Online Editor
The ongoing partial government shutdown officially became the longest-running shutdown in history with Jan. 17 marking its 27th day. There’s no end in sight after the president’s refusal to sign any appropriations bills that don’t include more than $5 billion for a wall along the country’s southern border and this has left workers in the lurch.
Unfortunately, this is not the first shutdown during the Trump administration; on Jan. 20 2016, the Senate Democrats overwhelmingly voted no on a short-term spending bill after the lack of a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program which lead to a government shutdown lasting three days and leaving 700,000 workers furloughed.
This shutdown is impeding 800,000 workers in nine out of 15 federal departments and a number of agencies are affected by this shutdown, including the EPA, the IRS, and the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, Justice, State, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, State and Treasury.
The following departments and services have been deemed “essential” or fall under “mandatory spending”: Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare although new applicants may face a wait, USPS, Veteran hospitals and benefits, Food Stamps (Dept. of Agriculture has only limited funding to maintain them without newly approved appropriations in the past but USDA says it can continue funding through Feb.), and according to a contingency plan for the Department of Homeland Security active duty military members are exempt from being furloughed, border patrol, air traffic control and TSA.
According to AmericanProgress.org, Americans are missing out on $2 billion in total for each pay period they go without a paycheck. By the White House’s own estimate, this shutdown will likely reduce quarterly U.S. GDP by 0.1 percent every two weeks that it continues. Since first-quarter GDP is projected to be roughly $5 trillion, Trump’s shutdown will cost the U.S. economy $5 billion in lost output every two weeks it continues based on the administration’s own impact estimate. That’s $2.5 billion per week, $357 million per day, or $15 million per hour.
Scotty McCorkle, the Superintendent of Bureau of Indian Affairs Concho Agency, has been with the BIA since 1975 and experienced each of the 20 shutdowns since 1976 when the current budgeting process began. Despite the fact budgets for all departments are supposed to be completed by Oct. 1, when their business year begins, McCorkle said that usually does not happen.
“In the four decades since the current system for budgeting and spending tax dollars has been in effect, Congress has managed to pass all its required appropriations measures on time only on four occasions: in fiscal 1977[first full fiscal year under current system], 1989, 1995 and 1997.”
McCorkle explained the reality of uncertainty facing furloughed workers at the BIA.
“[Employees] are standing by anxiously waiting to be called back to work,” McCorkle said. “Each agency has one or two employees designated as essential or excepted to collect the mail and be ready to respond to situations involving the protection of life and property. Those going without pay are starting to consider finding work through other jobs because they are tired of going through this almost every year.”
Another populous feeling the repercussions of the government shutdown are college students.
Lorenzo Rodriguez-Sedillo, a 19-year-old Chemistry major at Rose State College, narrowly avoided a financial-aid disaster this semester.
“Like most students, my education relies on federal aid. The government isn’t processing any new requests for federal aid and I can’t afford to pay my tuition out of pocket so I had to ask my stepdad for help. It’s very inconvenient because I shouldn’t have to make my stepdad pay for my tuition like that but I’m just thankful I could enroll,” they said.
Rodriguez-Sedillo said the only other option was to not enroll this semester and lose their scholarship.
“If I wouldn’t have enrolled this semester, my scholarship wouldn’t be processed for the next semester. When the government reopens, all of my paperwork will be processed and hopefully I am reimbursed,” they said.
“My stepdad is only paying this time because we are expecting a refund from financial-aid.”
As far as an end to the shutdown, the prospects continue to look bleak. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested to President Trump that his State of the Union address should be delayed or delivered in writing. Citing the fact that no sitting president has delivered a State of the Union address during a government shutdown and later told CNN that the address requires hundreds of people to help organize and ensure security, and many of those staffers are now furloughed. She added that Trump could give the State of the Union from the Oval Office.
Trump responded by cancelling Pelosi’s upcoming trips abroad to Brussels, Egypt and Afghanistan until the government reopens. In the same letter, Trump suggested that Pelosi could fly commercial if she still wanted to visit said countries.