Margaret Minnicks makes a living by writing online about entertainment, celebrities, books, movies, foods, drinks, health, and spirituality.
The United States government was partially shut down from December 22, 2018, through January 25, 2019. At 35 days, it was the longest shutdown in US history, beating out the previous record of 21 days at the end of December 1995 and the beginning of January 1996 under President Bill Clinton.
Only 21 of 80 people who helped care for the White House reported to work during the 2019 shutdown. This included butlers, chefs, electricians, and others. Those who weren't working without pay were furloughed.
Everyone has heard about how shutdowns affect federal employees. What people fail to realize is that government shutdowns affect everyone and not just federal employees.
The Impact on Federal Workers
It is true that federal workers are hit the hardest during shutdowns, but the impact eventually trickles down to all Americans.
In 2019, about 800,000 federal employees were either working without pay or being furloughed. Both chambers of Congress passed legislation that guaranteed back pay at the end of the shutdown to those who worked.
With no end in sight, some federal employees on furlough took on other jobs to make money to pay their bills. Many accepted low-paying jobs and substitute teaching positions.
Departments Affected and Not Affected by the 2019 Government Shutdown
The following nine federal departments employed about 800,000 workers who didn't get paid during the long government shutdown in 2019. About 420,000 federal employees had to work without pay, and about 380,000 federal employees were furloughed. Each department designated which employees had to work and which ones would not report to work.
Essential employees had to continue working with no pay during the shutdown. They received all the pay they earned after the shutdown ended. Nonessential employees were furloughed and did not have to report to work at all until the shutdown was over.
Departments Affected by the Government Shutdown
- Homeland Security
- Housing and Urban Development
Most employees at Homeland Security are considered essential and were working without pay. Most employees at the Internal Revenue Service are considered nonessential and were furloughed.
Departments Not Affected by the Shutdown
- Health and Human Services
- Veteran Affairs
How Shutdowns Affect the General Public
The 2019 shutdown made it extremely hard for federal workers. Their creditors knew that and made allowances for them to pay their bills.
The shutdown affected the general public and the US economy. According to S&P Global Ratings, the shutdown was estimated to cost the economy about $1.2 billion for each week that the government was partially closed. As of Friday, January 11, the US economy had lost $3.6 billion. By the time the shutdown ended on January 25, the total loss was $11 billion ($3 billion lost in the fourth quarter of 2018 and $8 billion lost in the first quarter of 2019), according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The irony is that the loss exceeded the amount President Trump demanded for the proposed border wall, which was $5 billion at the time.
Delayed Food Inspections
The public knows how often foods and drinks are recalled because of some risks federal inspectors have discovered. The government shutdown delayed food inspections. Not as many employees were inspecting food for Listeria, E-coli, and salmonella. In other words, even the food we eat might be at risk during a shutdown since food inspections are delayed or minimized.
Delayed Emergency Aid for Farmers
The shutdown also affected emergency aid from the Department of Agriculture for farmers, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Applications for emergency programs and routine services for farmers, such as loan decisions and mortgage assistance, were put on hold.
Not Enough Personnel for IPOs
The shutdown affected potential IPOs (short for initial public offering) or the very first sale of stock issued by a company to the public. IPOs are handled by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the government agency responsible for enforcing the federal securities laws and regulating securities. Of its 4,436 employees, it operated with just 285 of them during the 2019 shutdown.
Delayed Beverage Licenses
Small businesses and restaurants were impacted as they waited for beverage licenses and other applications to be approved. Businesses can't continue to sell alcohol if their licenses need to be renewed during a shutdown.
Not Enough Personnel for Weather Reports
Al Roker, meteorologist of the Today show, said even reporting the weather is impacted during a shutdown. He explained that there is a lack of workers to input data into modern technology for reporting accurate weather conditions.
Food Stamps and Other Programs for Low-Income Families
Fortunately, social security benefits were not affected in 2019. Medicare and Medicaid were the same as they always were. Millions of low-income families who receive food stamps from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) got their February food stamps a few weeks early before the program could run out of money. Therefore, about 39 million households enrolled in the program got their February allowance between January 18 and January 20.
That date was a few weeks earlier than the usual first of the month date. The decision for the early allotment indicated fears that the shutdown would continue into February (though it ultimately didn't). Therefore, billions of dollars in food stamp payments went out early as the shutdown continued.
Supermarkets such as Kroger, Walmart, and Safeway prepared for SNAP shoppers who make up about 10 percent of their business each month. They made sure they had enough food stocked and employees available to handle the volume of purchases.
WIC and Other Food Programs
More good news was that there was sufficient funding for the February allotment for Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which provides staple foods, infant formula, and breastfeeding support to millions of low-income pregnant mothers and their young children.
The National School Lunch Program, which serves about 30 million children each day, also had enough funding to last through the end of March.
Ellen Vollinger, food stamp and legal director at the Food Research & Action Center, said that it is unknown what would happen to any of these programs during an even longer shutdown. However, USDA officials said that if the 2019 shutdown had continued, they would have looked for other ways to keep federal nutrition programs operating the best way they could for as long as they could.
How the 2019 Shutdown Ended
For a while, there was no end in sight for the shutdown, which impacted roughly a quarter of the federal government and at least 800,000 federal workers. The shutdown was at an impasse, and no one knew when it would end. President Donald Trump and the Democrats did not make any progress toward putting an end to it. Trump said the shutdown could go on for months or even years.
The President insisted that he wanted more than $5 billion to fund the wall for the US-Mexico border. The Democrats refused to meet that demand. Instead, they offered a far smaller sum for security and asked the President to reopen the government now and negotiate border security later. Trump remained steadfast and rejected the Democrats' offer.
The President said he had the authority to dismiss what Congress wanted and declare a national emergency to obtain the funding for a border wall. Democrats and some Republicans didn't see building a border wall as a national emergency. Some people thought President Trump was using federal employees as pawns to fulfill his personal agenda.
Eventually, Congress and the president reached a deal to pass a bill that did not include the money for the border wall, and the shutdown ended.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
PoetikalyAnointed on January 13, 2019:
Thanks for informing us about the shutdown.
I pray that God will settle this soon!
Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on January 13, 2019:
Zia and Tim, it must be a nightmare for federal employees, but the government shutdown really does affect all Americans in some way.
As always, thanks for reading and commenting.
Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on January 13, 2019:
Yes, it's almost inconceivable. Americans are being made to suffer for a wall Trump said during his campaign that Mexico would pay for. I pray for those employees and families who really depend on government assistance. Perhaps, things well work out.
Great job on explaining this, Margaret.
Respect and admiration,
Zia Uddin from UK on January 12, 2019:
So sad to hear this. Here in the UK, we have a disaster called Brexit.