How Does the Government Shutdown Affect You?

When people talk about the government shutdown, it’s hard to think beyond D.C. and agencies far away that are being affected. But, right here in Gainesville, there are many agencies and even more people impacted while Congress and the president remain at a standstill over 700 miles away. Their livelihoods have screeched to a halt along with the government.

Since the shutdown began in December, national parks all over the country have been impacted. These national parks have trash cans brimming with garbage and bathrooms that are not being cleaned since workers have been without pay and have stopped cleaning. In the airports, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents are also among the thousands going to work without a paycheck while the shutdown continues.

There are many agencies that are affected by government shutdowns that one might not even think about. When the Food and Drug Administration stated that they might stop checking some foods — mostly perishable ones — to see if they’re violating any health standards in place, it was not something that I ever really thought would be affected by the government shutting down.

Our government is in charge of many aspects of our daily lives that we might not truly think about because we take these things for granted or just assume that they will always be there to serve us. On the other hand, there are also misconceptions about what agencies and places are affected by the shutdown. It is important to understand what is and is not affected by the federal government and, in turn, to better understand what a shutdown means for you, the people in your local communities and the United States as a whole.

Which agencies are not affected?

When setting out to conduct interviews of people and organizations affected in Gainesville, I truly thought that there would be more affected in our local area than there actually is.

I found that I was conflating different parts of the government and not distinguishing between what is considered a local or state agency rather than one run by the federal government. This can happen pretty easily: When we think of big parks in our area such as Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, it’s easy to just lump it into the same category as federally run parks as we don’t usually think of this difference in the moment when we are enjoying these parks. When I reached out to Paynes Prairie, Sarah Shellabarger, an employee from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, told me that the park wasn’t actually affected by the government shutdown. The park is part of a larger system of state parks in Florida, which is managed by Shellabarger’s department — a state agency.

Another agency that one might assume would be affected by the government shutdown is the local police department. Acting Chief Inspector Jorge Campos of the Gainesville Police Department helped shed light on these misconceptions. GPD will only be affected if the shutdown lasts for months, Campos said. Local agencies like GPD receive financial support from the federal government, and while the shutdown continues, any federal grants are put on hold. That being said, the money is paid in increments, so it would only start to affect them if the grants were withheld for six to eight months, Campos said.

“If we never receive them, then we are affected because we are already budgeted with these grants factored in,” he said.

Long-term effects to GPD and similar agencies depend on how long the shutdown lasts.

Other agencies that will probably not be affected include: the departments of Energy, Defense, Health and Human Services, Veteran Affairs, Education and Labor.

Which agencies are affected?

The TSA agents who work at the Gainesville Regional Airport are having a different experience. While TSA had requested that airport representatives not speak to the media, Gainesville airport representatives did put me in contact with the national TSA agency.

In an email, spokesperson Sari Koshetz said the agency’s frontline security (e.g. officers, explosive experts, inspectors, canine handlers and canines) are still working — but they’re not being paid during the shutdown.

“TSA’s dedicated officers are continuing to provide the rigorous security that we always do during this partial government shutdown,” Koshetz said. “Travelers will see no difference in security.”

While this shutdown continues, TSA agents right here in Gainesville are waiting for a paycheck and still going into work.

Other agencies that are affected include: the departments of Commerce, Interior, State, Transportation, Agriculture, Justice, Homeland Security, Treasury and Housing and Urban Development.

We usually would not think of the residents of small towns and cities when thinking about the federal government shutdown. There are people and agencies here in Gainesville that are affected or could be depending on how long it lasts. Right now, they’re collateral damage in breaking the record for the longest shutdown in American history. Being informed about our government and how it impacts and influences our local areas allows us to make informed comments and truly understand the effects of the shutdown and the federal government as a whole on our local communities.