Most of Government up and Running During Shutdown, Some Workers Without Savings Suffer

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JANUARY 07: A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) worker screens passengers and airport employees at O'Hare International Airport on January 07, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. TSA employees are currently working under the threat of not receiving their next paychecks, scheduled for January 11, because of the partial government …
Scott Olson/Getty Images

The partial government shutdown is in the spotlight as Democrats continue to deny President Donald Trump the $5 billion in funding to build a border wall. A close look at the battle reveals that except for some hardship for workers, the federal bureaucracy is up and running.

The shutdown also sheds light on how massive the government is and could spark debate about the difference between — and the necessity for both —  “essential” and “non-essential” workers.

Reuters noted in its roundup of the shutdown impact that this is not a Trump presidency phenomenon. The government has been temporarily shuttered 19 times since the mid-1970s. 

“The current shutdown has not affected three-quarters of the government, including the Department of Defense and the Postal Service, which have secure funding,” Reuters reported. “But 800,000 employees from the departments of Homeland Security and Transportation, among others, have been furloughed or are working without pay.”

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS):

At the IRS, 88 percent of the 70,000 people working are deemed non-essential.  Despite the drastic reduction in its workforce, Russ Vought, acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), has said Americans would get their tax refunds despite the shutdown.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

DHS is responsible for agencies under its purview, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Coast Guard, and the Secret Service.

Almost all of the DHS employees — 213,000 out of 245,000 — are essential, according to the agency’s plan for operating during a government shutdown. That means they are still working but without pay until the government is fully funded.

The leftist media has generated fake news about the TSA, saying workers are calling in sick putting the flying public in particular in peril. But Reuters reported “the TSA said on Tuesday the absences were having ‘minimal impact.’” 

“The agency said 4.6 percent of screeners did not show up for work on Monday, compared with 3.8 percent on the same day last year” — just over a 1 percent difference.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

The Department of Housing and Urban Development, on the other hand, is operating with just over 300 employees, with 7,500 others furloughed because they are deemed “non-essential.”

Moreover, even with the drastic cutback at  HUD, the most vulnerable populations the agency serves remain secure. 

“Public housing authorities and Native American tribal housing entities are not part of the federal government and so are not required to shut down,” Reuters reported.

HUD’s contingency plans note that a prolonged shutdown could affect home sales “reversing the trend toward a strengthening market,” under the Trump administration.

U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI)

While the National Park Service is operating with a “skeleton staff,” volunteers have been stepping up to clean up sites in national parks and, according to media reports, some Americans have even donated money to help the parks weather the shutdown.

In Washington, DC, the taxpayer-funded Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo are closed, although officials have reassured the public employees are caring for the animals at the zoo and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia — the zoo’s headquarters.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

Although some of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) inspections aren’t taking place, the agency has said it can respond to emergencies such as a food-borne illness outbreak.

“Some scientific research projects also cannot continue in full,” Reuters reported.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

“Food stamp recipients won’t miss their February benefits even if partial government shutdown continues, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday night,” UPI reported.

“The agency found a way to fund the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for 38 million Americans without new appropriations from Congress, the agency said in a news release.”

U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)

At the Department of Transportation 20,400 of its 55,000 employees are on leave.

“That excludes most of the Federal Aviation Administration, where 24,200 are working and the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) where all 2,700 employees are funded through other sources,” Reuters reported.

The New York Times reported on Tuesday on the plight of federal workers who are either working without pay or are on leave. Those who don’t have savings set aside for a rainy day are struggling to pay bills. Some are turning to credit cards.

Tanisha Keller, who works for the U.S. Census Bureau, “used to live paycheck to paycheck.”

“Now she’s “living nothing to nothing,” the Times reported.

Keller is counting on the government to make things right.

“There’s no cushion,” Keller said. “When February rolls around, my rent’s going to be due, and I’m going to need the nation to help.”

CNBC reported on Wednesday that the Democrats had changed their talking points in opposing Trump’s wall agenda to focus on workers like the ones the Times profiled.

”[Trump] has chosen a wall over workers,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said on Wednesday as she and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) used furloughed employees as a backdrop for a press briefing. “The president needs to end his senseless shutdown and reopen the government.”

“Trump, for his part, has downplayed the shutdown’s effect on government workers,” CNBC reported. “On Sunday, the former real estate mogul claimed he ‘can relate’ to federal employees who may not be able to pay bills. He said Wednesday that the workers ‘are terrific patriots’ and ‘a lot of them agree with what I’m doing.’

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