Partial shutdown impact spreads far from Washington, D.C. 

Posted: 5:00 am Saturday, January 5th, 2019

By Staff Writer

As the White House and Democrats in Congress remained at odds over President Donald Trump’s demand for money to build his border wall, hundreds of thousands of federal employees are facing the prospect of missing a paycheck at the end of next week, as the impact of a lack of a funding deal will cause financial pain to more than just people who work around the Washington, D.C. metro area.

“Even if we go back to work on Wednesday, the soonest we’d see a paycheck is the first week of February,” one Commerce Department worker told me. “A long time from now.”

Asked at a Rose Garden news conference on Friday what plans he had to help federal workers – if an extended shutdown developed – the President turned the conversation back to his goal of getting at least $5.6 billion for his border wall.

“This does really have a higher purpose than next week’s pay, and the people that won’t get next week’s pay, or the following week’s pay, I think if you ever really looked at those people, I think they’d say, ‘Mr. President, keep going.'”

Most federal workers were paid on December 28 – their next paycheck is scheduled for January 11, for a pay period that ends on January 5.

But the shutdown won’t only impact the suburbs of Washington, and that’s increasingly being seen in local news reports around the country.

1. Department of Agriculture. Yes, the USDA has two big buildings on Independence Avenue in Washington – but the USDA has hundreds and hundreds of small offices all around the country, with programs galore that help farm operations big and small. The USDA on Friday announced it would delay a key crop report scheduled for release on January 11. Local Farm Service Agency offices around the country are closed, peppered in small towns in every corner of the country. Just like their counterparts in D.C., those USDA workers are also not getting paid.

2. Environmental Protection Agency. Whether you like what the EPA does or does not do isn’t the question right now. The agency has more than just an office complex in Washington, as its field offices are spread around the country, with thousands of employees in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, Denver, San Francisco, and Seattle. Only one of every six federal workers hold their job in the Washington, D.C. area. Most people won’t believe that figure – but it’s a reminder of the reach of Uncle Sam, and how even a partial shutdown hits more than those Inside the Beltway.

3. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Yes, the FBI is thought of as a big part of the Justice Department in Washington. But the agency has agents spread all across the country, and not just in Blue states. FBI field offices are still open, as agents do their jobs – whether they get paid or not, whether they’re in Charlotte, Columbia, Knoxville, Little Rock, Mobile, Omaha, Phoenix, or anywhere else around the country. That’s a lot of people in a lot of communities outside of D.C. who have to deal with the impacts of the shutdown.

4. NASA. Most people think of any shutdown impact on NASA as hitting two places mainly – Central Florida near the Kennedy Space Center and Houston with the Johnson Space Center. But over the years, NASA made sure to spread out its facilities around the country – and with 95 percent of its employees furloughed, that means more than Orlando and Houston are going to feel the impact of the shutdown. There’s the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. The Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. NASA facilities in Virginia, California, Ohio and other states. And when the furloughs hit NASA, they also hit government contractors – and outfits that rely on business from the government employees as well.

5. National Parks. If there is one way that many Americans would run into the impact of the partial shutdown, it’s through the loss of funding for the National Park Service. There have been no shortage of news stories from parks around the country about overflowing bathrooms, injured people being carried out by Good Samaritans and the few rangers who are still working, and more. Again, like the workers at NASA, the FBI, EPA, and USDA, those who are ‘essential’ employees and ‘excepted’ from the furloughs are not getting paid. It’s not just a bunch of faceless bureaucrats supposedly making big money in the nation’s capital.

Negotiations led by Vice President Pence will resume on Saturday – but he will meet with Congressional staff, not lawmakers.

The House and Senate are not in session again until Tuesday – as for now, the partial shutdown, and the fight over money for a border wall, seems no closer to a resolution.

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