The Government Shutdown — What It All Means & Who Is Affected by It

The government has been partially shut down for over a month. But what does that mean? Isn’t this just about politicians in Capitol Hill not wanting to play nice with one another? And does this affect everyday people like us? Politics can get super confusing super quickly, but no fear, clarity is here.

What’s this really about?

Every so often, Congress has to agree upon a spending bill that dictates how much money certain parts of the government can use to run their department. A bill regarding nine federal departments had a deadline for Dec 22, 2018 at midnight, however Democrats and Republicans could not meet it over border disputes. Democrats were opposed to a proposed bill that would allocate $5.7 billion toward the building of a wall between the United States and Mexico border. President Trump told Congress he would veto the Democrats’ proposed bill allocating $1.3 billion for general border security and the shutdown broke out because neither party will support the other’s bill, leading to no funding being passed.

Who’s ‘shutdown’?

Basically, the nine departments whose funding hasn’t been approved:

  • Treasury
  • Homeland Security
  • Commerce
  • Transportation
  • Agriculture
  • Interior
  • Justice
  • State
  • Housing and Urban Development

The 800,000 workers these departments employ are either on furlough or working without pay.  Which means, 800,000 people have been without pay for over 30 days. Many of these workers have reached out on social media describing the predicament of whether or not to tap into their savings or get temporary jobs in order to pay for basic necessities like groceries or their mortgage.  

How does this affect us?

It does affect those not working for the government, in the sense that many services are at a halt. This shut down expands from D.C. to those who work in places like national parks or even some museums. This means if you wanted to take a trip to Yosemite National Park or a Smithsonian, you would find it had been closed for a month. Some even reported a few weeks ago that they were having trouble submitting their FAFSA, government issued financial aid that is essential for most college students.

In addition, you may have encountered somewhat of an airport nightmare  due to many airport traffic controllers calling out sick all over the country, leading to delays in flights and cancellations. In fact, on Jan 25, LaGuardia Airport closed for an hour and a half that morning, causing all arriving flights during that period to be significantly delayed. Similarly, Newark Airport has encountered delays due to lack of air traffic controllers.

Is there an end in sight?

On Jan 25, President Trump signed a bill to reopen the government through Feb 15. That means that Congress has until then to find a compromise or the government will be shutdown again or, maybe even worse, Trump will declare a national emergency. In doing so, Trump would be able to take existing funding from other departments to start the construction on his wall. In the meantime, however, everyone is open for business. It may take for parks and museums to reopen, but at least furlough employees are going to be paid back for the time they were not allowed to work. In fact, that same day, Trump signed a bill that would “provide back pay for this shutdown and many future ones.”

Hopefully this provided insight into the complex world that is our government today.