5 Things You Need to Know About the Government Shutdown

5 Things You Need to Know About the Government Shutdown

01.15.19
The Capitol building in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Martin Falbisoner/Wikimedia Commons)
01.15.19

Now the longest in U.S. history, the shutdown — basically a result of the debate over spending for a border wall — has left roughly 800,000 federal employees without a paycheck and led to concerns about airline safety and vandalism to national parks.

While many parts of the federal government remain open, here are some ways the shutdown may affect you.

TSA

Travelers are complaining about longer than usual security lines as airport officials close screening lanes because TSA employees are taking time off work rather than have to work unpaid. Unscheduled absences doubled Monday to 7.6 percent, compared to a 3.2 percent rate on the same day a year ago, TSA officials tweeted.

With hundreds of TSA workers calling in sick and others working without pay, is it really safe to fly? TSA officials say air travel is not impacted and it’s still safe to fly.

Because of wait times, passengers are urged to arrive at least two hours before a domestic flight and three hours for international travel. But it’s also smart to check in with your airport directly.

If you have a flight during this shutdown, don’t forget to smile at your TSA workers. They’re working to keep you safe, despite not knowing when they’ll be paid for their services. 

Air Traffic Control

On a similar note, air traffic controllers are also expected to work without pay. Unlike TSA agents, the union for air traffic controllers is suing the Trump administration.

Additionally, air traffic control is a line of work that requires complete and total concentration. A single mistake could lead to drastic consequences. “America wants its air traffic controllers to be laser-focused on landing planes safely and monitoring America’s runways, not distracted by financial issues and anxiety of financial instability,” the union said in its lawsuit, according to news reports.

The union representing flight attendants, AFA-CWA, has also weighed in.

But air traffic controllers are getting some support as their Canadian counterparts have sent hundreds of pizzas to US employees as the shutdown continues.

National Parks

Before you head out to visit a national park, you may want to check to make sure it’s open.

While gates at some park sites remain open, currently a third of national park locations are completely closed — presidential homes, museums and cultural sites with buildings that can be locked.

Some of the major parks like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Yellowstone are open, but the staff is limited and many visitor centers and restrooms remain closed. The roads are also far more dangerous because they have not been cleared of fallen debris.

Limited or no staff leaves many of the national park sites vulnerable. There have been reports of vandals cutting off locks from closed entrance gates, severed Joshua trees and cars driving through restricted areas. At least seven national park visitors have died since the partial shutdown began on Dec. 22, according to CNN. 

If you’re visiting a park, let the wildlife be. If you brought something with you, also bring it home because Mother Nature doesn’t want your trash anymore than you do. And most importantly, leave it better than you found it.

Financial Aid

Since the U.S. Department of Education is fully funded for the 2018-19 school year, students shouldn’t see a disruption to their financial aid packages this semester.

But with some Internal Revenue Service departments closed, students selected by the Department of Education (DOE) to verify proof of their income for next year’s FAFSA application may have difficulty obtaining documents from the IRS.

DOE officials recently announced alternative documentation to verify tax and income information.

FDA Resumes Food Inspections

Furloughed food inspectors will resume food inspections Tuesday, the first time since the federal government shut down.

While the FDA employees won’t be paid, they’ll focus on high-risk food items like seafood and cheese. But is that cold comfort for people anxious over food safety, especially in the wake of the romaine lettuce scare? 

Have you been affected by the shutdown or know someone who has? Share your stories with us on Twitter (@itsYRmedia), Facebook (@yrmediapage) or Instagram (@yr.media).

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