The Government Shutdown: Is It Affecting You?
Over the weekend, the government shutdown—fueled mainly by disputes over a wall at the southern border—passed its 22nd day. Now at 24 days long, it is the longest shutdown in United States history. The shutdown is only partial, which means that essential services, like the postal service, are still fully functioning. Services like Social Security and Medicaid are also still available. However, other departments have seen significant closures and slowdowns. Thousands of employees have been furloughed and some national parks have been forced to close. Additionally, federal employees who are still working will not be seeing paychecks until the shutdown is resolved.
If you are not a federal employee, you might feel unaffected by the government shutdown. But due to tensions and shutdowns, your daily life might be more affected than you think. Should you worry?
For anyone planning to travel in the next few days, issues with the TSA are probably the biggest concern. The TSA is a division of the Department of Homeland Security. It handles traveler safety, mainly at airports, by checking identification, screening luggage, and communicating safety policies. They are there to not only make the travel process more efficient, but also to make sure everyone stays safe.
Since they perform such an essential duty, the TSA has not been shut down. However, many TSA workers are understandably unhappy with the lack of pay. Some have been calling out of work in protest, leading to a lack of personnel, delays, and the potential for an increased security risk. Due to a lack of staffing, one airport in Houston was even forced to close down some TSA checkpoints.
The government shutdown does not mean that terrorists and other dangerous people are suddenly running rampant through our airports. There are still plenty of TSA employees who are still on duty and travel safety is still a priority. However, travelers might experience some delays and inconveniences due to the lack of staffing.
Food and Drug Safety
Another area of potential concern during the government shutdown is food safety. In the United States, there are dozens of people who help your food get safely to your table. This includes inspectors from the Department of Agriculture who ensure safety and cleanliness in slaughterhouses and employees within the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) who monitor product safety.
During the shutdown, many employees in the FDA and similar departments are not getting paid. Thankfully, however, they are still working to ensure that our food is clean and safe. Inspectors from the Department of Agriculture are still working during the shutdown and the FDA is ready to investigate any reports of foodborne illness. According to NPR, since the FDA only inspects food facilities every few year, around 99% of facilities were not due for inspection during the shutdown period anyway. This means that the impact on food safety should not be highly noticeable.
Similarly, some people are worried about how the shutdown might affect vehicle safety. The agency in charge of performing vehicle safety inspections is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which also provides key research into traffic accidents and vehicle safety and educates the public on road safety. During the shutdown, the NHTSA has been forced to cut back on some of its initiatives, including vehicle defect investigations. Before the shutdown, the NTHSA had 13 active investigations, all of which are likely suspended for the duration of the shutdown. The suspension of these investigations means that Americans might have to wait years to find out about dangerous defects in their vehicles. It also means that the loved ones of people killed in defect-related accidents will have to wait to find out exactly what went wrong.
It’s understandable to be worried about issues like understaffed airport security, foodborne illness outbreaks, or dangerous vehicles during the government shutdown. However, agencies like the TSA and FDA are still doing their best to ensure safety for all Americans, so while you might experience delays or other inconveniences, your daily life should remain relatively unaffected during the shutdown.
The government shutdown is a polarizing topic. But no matter your political opinions, remember to stay informed, be aware of potential delays, and be friendly to TSA employees or anyone else who might be working without pay!
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