In 2018 alone, there were hundreds of reported cases of E. Coli infections, most often resulting from eating contaminated romaine lettuce. Five people died. Imagine how much worse it could have been if no one was inspecting food processing facilities!
Well, unfortunately, The Food and Drug Administration, which oversees 80 percent of the food supply, suspends all routine inspections of domestic food-processing facilities during shutdowns – including those that are high-risk.
Sarah Sorshcer, of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, says, “That puts our food supply at risk. Regular inspections, which help stop foodborne illness before people get sick, are vital.”
The federal courts, which were already backed up, have gotten a lot worse. Many attorneys and judges at the Department of Justice were placed on furlough. The shutdown delayed almost all federal civil cases, including discrimination, whistleblower, and disciplinary. Among the hardest hit were immigration cases, which already faced a huge backlog.
LA radio station KPCC/LAist reported in December that Los Angeles alone had fewer than 40 judges and nearly 74,000 pending immigration cases –and that was prior to the shutdown. After having the courts closed for 35 days, people who were due to appear will get pushed to the back of the line and may have to wait another three years before getting heard.
The Coast Guard
Unlike the Army or the Navy, which are part of the Department of Defense, the Coast Guard falls under Homeland Security, which is currently not operational. While this may not affect you directly – they’re still expected to do their jobs –there are still thousands of people that had to go without a paycheck.
Members of the Coast Guard, who provide services such as rescues along the coastline and efforts to stop drug smugglers, were last paid on December 31 before the government re-opened. Former Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen told NPR, “I think when you have people providing emergency services to this country without pay, I think we ought to take a serious look at how we’re governed.”
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association says 3,000 support workers had been furloughed and about 10,500 air traffic controllers were working without pay due to the shutdown. While travelers may not have seen too much of an impact, the TSA workers also fall under “essential,” and as such must also work without pay in the event of a shutdown. As a result, the association reported more screeners taking unplanned sick days.
Airlines and airport officials advised passengers to allow plenty of time to get through security and noted that Global Entry program applicants may not get processed since many appointments were canceled due to the shutdown.
What’s not affected?
Luckily, many important programs remain operational during a shutdown. We’ll wrap things up by telling you what’s not affected in the case of a government shutdown: Medicare, Medicaid, and the Health Insurance Marketplace (aka Obamacare). Social Security, disability checks and veterans’ benefits all continue to go strong. In addition, the U.S. Postal Service, an independent agency, remain unaffected.
Did you feel the effects of the shutdown in your daily life? Let us know what impact it’s had on you and your family in comments.