The fifth day of the government shutdown began Wednesday as budget negotiations between lawmakers and President Trump supposedly were to resume after the Christmas break. However, White House officials expect the shutdown to extend into the new year as Trump refuses to sign any spending bill that does not include billions in funding for a border wall, while Democrats continue to argue that a physical barrier would be wasteful and ineffective. “I can’t tell you when the government’s going to be open. I can tell you it’s not going to be open until we have a wall or fence, whatever they’d like to call it,” Trump said on Tuesday. House Democrats, soon to be in the majority, are reportedly planning to introduce a bill to re-open the government on Jan. 3.
Around 800,000 government employees are now furloughed or expected to work without pay. Federal agencies have been attempting to continue operating as usual, though funding and staffing lapses have hit some harder than others. The Department of Agriculture expects 61 percent of its employees to work during the first week of the shutdown. The department’s Food and Nutrition Services office, which oversees food assistance services like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, will have its staffing cut by 95 percent by the end of the day. Households eligible for SNAP will still receive benefits in January, but other programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) may not be able to provide assistance if resources run low.
Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee project that around 96 percent of NASA employees, 86 percent of Department of Commerce employees, and 95 percent of Housing and Urban Development employees will not be returning to work this week unless the shutdown ends. The Small Business Administration announced that it will remain “inactive” until further notice, which means that millions of businesses will be unable to secure loans.
The Department of Health and Human Services will continue to track illness outbreaks and high-risk recalls with around 75 percent of its staff remaining. Most federal law enforcement personnel will continue to work without pay, though they are expected to be compensated once the shutdown ends.
Many departments have stated that more employees may be furloughed, and services suspended, as the shutdown progresses and reserve funds become depleted.
Government workers have reported financial difficulties as a result of the furloughs. A labor organization representing U.S. Treasury employees said on Monday that its members have had to alter holiday plans and reduce their spending. Hundreds of people have taken to Twitter to talk about the personal consequences of the shutdown under the hashtag #ShutdownStories.
Trump has claimed, without providing any specifics, that many federal workers have encouraged him to stand his ground. “These federal workers want the wall,” he said.
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