Federal shutdown continues to impact Oregonians


Additional services end as funding ceases for multiple departments

Jan. 23, 2019 — As of press time on Tuesday, Jan. 22, there has been no change in the status of the partial government shutdown impacting more than 800,000 Federal employees as it enters its 33rd day.

Local efforts from veterans’ groups and community members to assist U.S. Coast Guard members of Station Siuslaw River and their families have generated more than $10,000 in cash donations. Additionally, organizations such as Siuslaw Outreach Services (SOS) and Florence Food Share are prepared to respond to requests for aid, although at this time they have reportedly had few additional requests.

Depending on the agency they work for and whether they are deemed operationally “critical,” some federal workers have been compelled to return to work without pay until the shutdown is ended. Many of these agencies provide important services to members of the Siuslaw region.

The change of status for some of these federal employees, transitioned from furloughed status to working without pay, is shifting in part due to the seasonal requirements of the IRS, as well as increased safety concerns in areas where the federal government has oversight responsibilities.

These include the authority to approve the distribution of food, the release of new consumer products and drugs, and the protection of America’s 95,473-mile coastline by the Coast Guard.

There is also growing concern regarding the identification of potentially dangerous people traveling through security areas monitored by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) staff, many of whom have been furloughed while the rest work without pay. This problem could potentially increase as the rate of no-shows or sick calls made by TSA employees has risen from slightly more than 3 percent last January, to more than 10 percent on the same dates so far this January.

The list of federal departments and agencies defunded is extensive and many voters are unaware of the extent to which their lives will be more noticeably impacted as the shutdown extends into its second month. Departments currently unfunded include Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Homeland Security, Interior, Transportation, Treasury and Housing and Urban Development.

The shutdown also affects the pay for agents of the FBI, the Federal Prison System and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, all of which have Oregon-based employees.

President Donald Trump has maintained his refusal to consider funding any legislative effort, even those crafted in a traditional bi-partisan fashion, to re-open the agencies affected by the shutdown until both houses of Congress agree to authorize his request for a $5.7 billion expenditure for a future “border wall.”

Newly seated Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi of California, and her Senate counterpart New York Senator Chuck Schumer, have reiterated their opposition to the wall, refusing to consider the president’s latest budget proposal for the border wall and choosing instead to push for more technologically-based solutions. These preferences include the installation of additional LIDAR locations, drones and remote sensing detectors.

In the meantime, the impasse in Washington D.C. has a very direct impact on many households that include one or more family members who are now either working without pay or have been furloughed. Until the financial aspects of the battle over the funding of the wall have been agreed upon, many of those families are living on savings and whatever financial support is provided by community members and organizations helping to fill the gap created by the shutdown.

There are approximately 28,000 state workers in Oregon, with 9,583 directly impacted by the shutdown — with just over 500 of them within Lane County who are not being paid at this time.

At the same time, there are a number of other important oversight and administrative services that have been interrupted by the shutdown, many of which citizens are unaware of until they require the service. For example, at this time all loans that are being processed for or by the Small Business Administration have been halted. This was done without informing many small businesses that there would be long delays in acquiring funds to open a new business or to improve an existing one.

In addition, farmers cannot get new loans, and payments designed to offset losses incurred because of Chinese trade tariffs are in limbo due to the closure of the Agriculture Department.

In the area of national security, the E-Verify system that was created specifically to check on the legal work status of potential employees — a service used primarily by businesses when hiring new or seasonal employees — has been taken off-line. This means that employers nationwide are unable to verify the work eligibility for any potential employee, effectively halting hiring.

Also, brewers and vintners cannot get approval to sell new varieties of beer or wine until the Alcohol, Tobacco, Tax and Trade Bureau is re-opened.

The long-term impact of the shutdown on the nation’s overall economy has begun to have a noticeable impact. Kevin Hassett, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, told media outlets last week that the shutdown should reduce economic growth by 0.13 percentage points for every week that it lasts, a change from the 0.1 percentage points every two weeks it originally projected. That’s because its first projections did not include contractors not being paid or the ripple effect on the economy, such as restaurant meals not being taken, movies not being seen and other entertainment and recreational spending now being curtailed.

JPMorgan economist Daniel Silver also lowered projections for first-quarter GDP growth to 2 percent from 2.25 percent.

Meanwhile, there are no talks between the president and Congressional leaders currently underway, or scheduled in the near future, to address the issue of the shutdown.

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