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A running list of problems caused by the longest-ever U.S. government shutdown

Adriana Belmonte
Associate Editor

This story has been updated.

The ongoing government shutdown is the longest in American history. And problems caused by the shutdown outside of D.C. are mounting.

The clearest problem is that approximately 800,000 federal employees are either on furlough or working without pay. For about one third of federal workers, Friday, Jan. 11, would have been the first missed payday (and the rest missed their paychecks the followed week). Instead, their money is on hold indefinitely while President Trump and Congressional Democrats continue feuding over border wall funding.

Although furloughed workers are bearing the brunt of it, everyday Americans are also feeling the effects. 

(Graphic: David Foster/Yahoo Finance)

The lack of paychecks is not the only major ramification from the shutdown. Here are some of the biggest ones that various parts of the country — as opposed to the dysfunctional government itself — are experiencing:

North Carolina cuts back on school lunch menus

In Vance County, N.C., school menus will change beginning next week. According to WAFB9, “the school system announced that it is moving to minimum meals consisting of two vegetables, bread, fruit, and milk.” There won’t be any more fresh produce for middle and high school students, and elementary school students will only receive it twice a week.

This is a county where 90% of students qualify for free or reduced meals. For free lunch programs, the USDA generally reimburses schools for providing meals to students. With the shutdown, funding will only last so long.

Federal workers bearing the brunt

Federal employees missed their first paychecks as a result of the shutdown, but the ramifications don’t stop there. If the shutdown persists, their second paychecks will be missed on Jan. 25.

Angela Tucker, a corrections officer at a federal prison, explained her health problems to the New York Times. “I’m on a lot of medications, because I’m a year out from being a breast cancer survivor, so I have to make the decision — do I refill all of my medications even before I need them, because I might not have the money later, or do I pay for the child care?” Tucker said. “Or do I buy food?”

In Wisconsin, Mallory Lorge, an employee for the Department of Interior, is rationing her insulin. After being faced with both high medical bills and the government shutdown, she and her husband are struggling to make ends meet until paychecks resume.

Lorge told NBC News that she ignored her high blood sugar last week and just went to bed.  “When it gets that high you can go into diabetic ketoacidosis, you can go into a coma,” she said. “I can’t afford to go to the ER. I can’t afford anything. I just went to bed and hoped I’d wake up.”

She described the lack of pay as “like being held hostage. … That the government has put us in this position is like a punch in the gut.”

Travelers delayed

With more TSA workers calling out sick, travelers may face longer security lines. (Photo: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers, who are being forced to work without pay, are threatening to quit. There are approximately 51,000 of these employees across the country and earn on average $35,000 a year. Many are calling in sick, leading to a shortage of employees and long lines at airport security.

Without getting pay, one TSA worker told the New York Times that he and his co-workers might have to cut back on food. “Can I do the job without nutrition? Somebody has to answer that,” he said. “If 52,000 people have to work without nourishment, can the job get done?”

If the job cannot get done, this will have a massive effect on travelers. In Florida on Friday, Miami International Airport closed a terminal last weekend because twice the normal amount of workers have called out sick. Friday was the first day that these screeners have missed a paycheck.

At Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, massive lines stretched out on Monday morning as a result of staffing shortages causing at least six security checkpoints to be closed. Airports in Houston and Miami experienced similar issues over the weekend because of workers calling out sick. 

FBI investigations impeded

As the FBI continues operating without funding, the agency is feeling the full force of it. A backlog of evidence is piling up, and the agency even turned down assisting in an international kidnapping case, CNN reported.

Agents have been advised to pay their informants ahead of time, as funds will begin dissipating because of budgetary woes. Representatives from the FBI Agents Association met with Vice President Pence and Speaker Pelosi to discuss their growing frustrations over the shutdown.

“I just got off the phone with a Marine buddy that is in the FBI,” a veteran wrote to CNN’s Jake Tapper.  I tried to give him some money so he could pay his bills and he wouldn’t take it. He was telling me about how the office was 80% full on [last] Friday night despite the shutdown. Lots of great Americans with diverse political views are keeping us safe and not complaining while they are fodder for a political fight with people who probably never or don’t remember the stress of not paying a bill.“

FAFSA complications

Those who are repaying their student loans will still need to be making their monthly payments, since FAFSA is run by the Department of Education, which is fully funded throughout the shutdown. However, federal employees who are not receiving a paycheck are advised to reach out to their loan servicers about restructuring their repayment options.

Some students applying for financial aid need tax transcripts to vary their income and can’t obtain one because the IRS is part of the shutdown.

Low-income students are more likely to be affected by this, since they tend to be flagged for income verification more than other students, according to Inside Higher Ed. However, the DOE has since stated that these students could use alternative documents for income verification.

Farmers without loans

Farmers are unable to obtain USDA data or FSA loans because of the shutdown. (Photo: REUTERS/Oliver Doyle)

Farmers who had applied for bailouts amid the tariffs are also missing payments since the U.S. Department of Agriculture is closed, which is leaving some in the lurch about planting next season’s crops.

The deadline to apply for the tariff aid was initially Jan. 15, 2019, although this was extended due to the government shutdown. However, applications can’t be received if the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is closed.

Additionally, farmers can’t receive their Farm Service Agency (FSA) loans, which are approved based on crop production and not historical data. With government offices closed, no one can certify production.

Small businesses feeling squeezed

Problems caused by the shutdown also involve small businesses that are applying for loans with the Small Business Administration are also feeling strangled by the shutdown. Without staff to approve the loans, business has stalled and companies are unable to expand — or even start — their companies.

Craft brewers unable to make beer

(Photo: REUTERS/Rick Wilking)

Breweries that are applying for labels for new beers are finding business slow because of the shutdown. Since labels need to be approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, companies are unable to get labels, and ultimately sell new drinks federally.

Immigration courts delayed

Immigrants awaiting asylum hearings are facing delays as a result of the shutdown. Although Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is still running, most U.S. immigration courts are not, unless there is an urgent deportation case.

As of Jan. 10, there were over 800,000 cases waiting to be heard in court. During the 2013 shutdown, over 37,000 immigration hearings were delayed.

Parks trashed

Without staff to maintain the upkeep, some of the parks are seeing trash cans and toilets overflow with waste.  Some visitors to Joshua Tree National Park even destroyed Joshua trees.

Park employees, one of the first few that were affected by the shutdown, are also worried about their financial situation with some employees taking on second jobs to cover their costs. Some workers, fatigued by repeated shutdowns, had opened emergency savings intended for these situations.

Native American lands neglected

A young boy sits in the back of a pick up truck with the flags representing the United States and Native Americans near Fort Laramie, Wyoming. (Photo: REUTERS/Stephanie Keith)

Native Americans rely on government funding for health care services and education on their reservations. Police officers on reservations are considered federal employees and have been working without pay, and tribes are uncertain over whether or not they will be reimbursed for shutdown-related expenses.

Additionally, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, “was set to furlough 2,295 of 4,057 employees during a shutdown, meaning at least some of those services and salaries will be slowed or stopped,” according to the New York Times.

SNAP recipients at risk

Washington, D.C., Mississippi, New Mexico, Oregon, and Louisiana are the top five places in the U.S. with the highest percentage of families on SNAP benefits. The food stamp program is run through USDA and department official stated that recipients will receive funding through February.

However, they did not guarantee that it will continue if the shutdown lasts longer than that. There is a $3 billion emergency fund for the program, but according to Vox, it will cover less than two-thirds of SNAP in March.

No food safety inspections

Food safety inspectors haven’t been able to monitor the safety of seafood. (Photo: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

On Wednesday, news surfaced that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stopped routine food safety inspections because of the shutdown. This includes “seafoods, fruits, vegetables, and many other foods at high risk of contamination,” the New York Times reported.

Meat and poultry were exempt from this since both are monitored by the Department of Agriculture, which is still functioning.

Government research impeded

Many government reports will likely be affected. This includes the January jobs report, future job reports, factory orders, inflation data, and productivity reports.

The January jobs report “may show an artificially high unemployment rate and low unemployment figure”  because many of these federal employees could be counted as unemployed. This would raise the U.S. unemployment rate by 0.2%, according to the Associated Press.

With the Census Bureau shut down, future job reports may not be released. The USDA can’t release farming data and although CPI data was released on Jan. 11, the Fed’s preferred inflation was not.

Other data releases affected by the shutdown include those of the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, and the Economic Research Service.

Additionally, by not funding federal scientists, there could be a major slowdown in potentially life-saving scientific research.

Weather not forecasted

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) is currently shut down. In a Twitter thread, a hurricane specialist explained that this time period is typically used for hurricane training and outreach, and that the shutdown will push employees behind schedule.

The National Weather Service is also unable to carry out key functions related to weather forecasts due to the shutdown.

Mortgage and rent payments missed

Since the shutdown began on Dec. 22, each federal worker has lost an average of over $2,800. Homeowners among them owe approximately $249 million in mortgage payments, while renters may owe up to $189 million each month. This comes to a total of $438 million in payments, according to a HotPads report.

Over 50,000 mortgage originations could have been affected by Jan. 11 as a result of these government agencies being closed.

The U.S. credit rating wobbles

Fitch Ratings stated that the shutdown could mean the nation’s debt limit won’t be raised later this year, and “could well prompt Fitch, and other credit rating agencies, to lower the country’s triple-A sovereign rating.”

In a tweet, the credit rating agency quoted its global head of sovereign ratings: “Debt ceiling will be problematic if the U.S. government shutdown continues, the worst case scenario will be payment interruption, we won’t see that in the shutdown but could see that in the debt ceiling by March 1st.”

Aarthi Swaminathan contributed to this report.

Adriana is an associate editor for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @adrianambells.

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