From airports to lunchrooms, shutdown affects Americans in surprising ways

Passengers wait in line at a security checkpoint at Miami International Airport in Miami, Jan. 18, 2019. While security screeners and air traffic controllers have been told to keep working, Federal Aviation Administration safety inspectors weren’t, until the agency began recalling some Jan. 12. About 2,200 of the more than 3,000 inspectors are now back on the job, overseeing work done by airlines, aircraft manufacturers and repair shops. The government says they’re doing critical work but forgoing such tasks as issuing new pilot certificates. | Associated Press file photo by Lynne Sladky, St. George News

UNITED STATES — What does the government shutdown have to do with you if you or your loved ones aren’t federal employees?

More than you might think. Washington’s doings, or not-doings, can be woven into everyday American life, from a bowl of breakfast cereal to a bottle of beer after work.

The budget standoff between President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats is rippling into some unexpected places.

Like Carmen Bush’s cellphone.

It’s being deluged with telemarketing calls, but she can’t get added to the National Do Not Call Registry. It is unavailable during the stalemate.

“It’s turning into an every-15-minute reminder that the government is shut down,” the Oakland, California, high school English teacher said. “I feel bad because I know so many other people are being affected by the shutdown in so many more devastating ways, but this is just one way that didn’t even cross my mind.”

Here’s a look at some of the many other ways the shutdown is affecting American families:

On your plate

Caitlin Hilbert was enjoying some poke, the Hawaiian marinated raw fish dish, last week when the shutdown made her stop chewing.

It occurred to her that the Food and Drug Administration, which oversees seafood safety, had suspended routine inspections.

Stock image, St. George News

The agency said last Monday it was bringing workers back to resume checks of seafood and other “high-risk” items. Still, the moment made Hilbert reflect on the links between Washington and her life in San Mateo, California.

“I want to be able to consume food without worry,” the college student and illustrator said

The FDA oversees about three-quarters of the food supply, from fresh vegetables to dry cereal. The agency conducts about 8,400 domestic-food inspections a year, about a third involving “high-risk” food.

The agency said some checks — on imported food, for instance — have continued through the shutdown; so have U.S. Department of Agriculture inspections of meat and poultry.

To be sure, inspectors don’t normally examine every morsel Americans eat, and plenty of food is safe.

“The odds that you, as a consumer, will go in and pick up a box of food that was affected by the shutdown are low,” said Sarah Sorscher, deputy director of regulatory affairs at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a food safety advocacy group. “But particularly as the shutdown goes on, the chances increase that someone in America is going to get sick who wouldn’t have gotten sick, because of the shutdown.”

The complaint department

After enduring past shutdowns as a federal worker, Atlanta retiree David Swan hoped he wouldn’t feel the effects of this one.

Then he tried to look at an identity theft complaint he filed with the Federal Trade Commission in 2017, after his personal information was compromised in a data breach and he learned that someone checked into a hotel under his name.

Swan recently got an email saying his FTC account would be deactivated if he didn’t log in, but the system is offline because of the shutdown. (The commission does say accounts aren’t being deactivated in the meantime.)

“The process of keeping the government open and keeping the government running should not be compromised for partisan politics,” he said.

In the lunchroom

The shutdown is showing up in school cafeterias in North Carolina’s rural Vance County, which plans to start paring student lunches this week.

Cafeteria stock image, St. George News

Fresh produce will be nixed in middle and high schools and reduced in elementary schools, and lunchrooms will stop offering bottled water and juice, among other changes announced in a Facebook post this week. Ice cream will be gone, too.

The USDA assures that school lunch programs have funding through the end of March. But the Vance County school system said it’s trying “to conserve food and funding” in a district where most students come from families with incomes low enough to qualify them for free or reduced-price lunch. Federal money pays for 95 percent of its school nutrition program.

“All indications are that as far as food supply and funding, we are OK through March. But beyond that, we really don’t know,” so administrators want to stretch what they have, spokeswoman Terri Hedrick said.

The USDA said in a statement Thursday that officials “understand that the current lapse in appropriations creates uncertainty for the future,” but they’re hopeful the budget stalemate will end soon.

In tax tangles

Tax Day isn’t until April, but some of Mindy Schwartz’ accounting clients are anxious to contact the Internal Revenue Service now. They’ve gotten notices citing issues with past returns and saying the clients owe money.

This July 24, 2018, file photo shows a portion of the 1040 U.S. Individual Income Tax Return form for 2018. Associated Press photo by Mark Lennihan, St. George News

Normally, Schwartz calls up a special IRS number for tax professionals to get to the bottom of notices like this. But the line is now answered only by a message saying help “is not available at this time.”

Help may be on the way: The IRS said it was recalling about 46,000 of its employees, over half its workforce, as the official start of tax season approaches Jan. 28. The agency said workers would start staffing some phone lines “in the coming days.”

For the moment, Schwartz’s concerned clients can only ponder whether to wait to get through, and perhaps risk penalties and interest, or pay what the IRS says they owe, even if they believe there’s an error.

“Getting communications from the IRS tends to freak people out, so when you can’t get them an answer, it gets a little scary,” said Schwartz, of Carlsbad, California.

At the airport

Jennifer Lyon-Weisman isn’t a worrier by nature. But she headed for the airport in Columbus, Ohio, over three hours before her Friday afternoon flight.

She lives only 15 minutes away, but she didn’t want to take chances on her annual trip to a fundraising music festival in New Jersey. She’d heard reports of long lines and closed checkpoints at some airports, starting last weekend, after absenteeism spiked among now-unpaid federal security screeners.

The sick-out rate has eased a bit, and the Transportation Security Agency said less than 6 percent of flyers nationwide waited more than 14 minutes in checkpoint lines as of Thursday.

A TSA agent mans the body scanner at St. George Regional Airport, St. George, Utah, July 6, 2017 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

But with a holiday weekend likely to boost crowds, Lyon-Weisman was concerned.

“And then I feel guilty because people aren’t being paid, and it’s a really small problem,” said Lyon-Weisman, a barber.

In the end, the airport crowds were light and screening went swiftly, she said.

While security screeners and air traffic controllers have been told to keep working, Federal Aviation Administration safety inspectors weren’t, until the agency began recalling some Jan. 12.

About 2,200 of the more than 3,000 inspectors are now on the job, overseeing work done by airlines, aircraft manufacturers and repair shops. The government says they’re doing critical work but forgoing such tasks as issuing new pilot certificates.

Meanwhile, passengers will probably have to wait a bit longer to check out Delta’s newest jet model, a 109-seater the airline says has “among the widest seats” among single-aisle planes. CEO Ed Bastian said the Jan. 31 launch date will likely be pushed back because of certification delays amid the shutdown.

On college campuses

Some college students and their families are also contending with shutdown woes as they try to get tax information for financial aid applications.

With IRS phone lines and offices closed, some have struggled to get verification and documents they need to apply. The shutdown doesn’t affect the aid itself, but the Department of Education acknowledges that some “systems and processes depend on information from — and actions taken by — other federal agencies, several of which are currently closed.”

Reynold Verret, the president of Xavier University of Louisiana, said some students at his Catholic, historically black New Orleans school have been caught up in the quandary.

“We’re not exceptional,” he said. “Every university in the United States right now is probably facing that, as well.”

From the tap

Money isn’t the only thing that’s not flowing during the shutdown. Some craft breweries are postponing new beer releases or expansions because they need permission from a federal agency that isn’t open.

Bottles, freshly filled with beer, move on a belt at Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee, Jan. 14, 2019 | Associated Press photo by Carrie Antlfinger, St. George News

Such breweries tend to offer new seasonal and special brews frequently, and new beer labels need the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau’s approval to be sold across state lines.

Milwaukee-based Lakefront Brewery, for one, has upcoming cherry lager and apple ale releases that could be delayed while it waits for the label-approval process to resume. Some other breweries have new locations idling while waiting for permits from the bureau.

“To me, it kind of drives home to everybody what’s all happening and how many people are affected,” said Russ Klisch, Lakefront’s founder and president. “The government does touch everyone’s life, one way or another.”

Written by JENNIFER PELTZ, Associated Press. Associated Press writers Alina Hartounian in Phoenix; Ivan Moreno in Milwaukee; Skip Foreman in Charlotte, North Carolina; Rebecca Santana in New Orleans; and Kiley Armstrong in New York contributed to this report.

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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15 Comments

  • DB January 20, 2019 at 4:18 pm

    “It’s being deluged with telemarketing calls, but she can’t get added to the National Do Not Call Registry. It is unavailable during the stalemate.”

    Don’t waste your time, it doesn’t work. This is an Associated Press article. Their job is to make Trump look as bad as possible. Move on, nothing to see here.

  • Red2Blue310 January 20, 2019 at 8:30 pm

    This is the solution to the shutdown: make Trump good for his word. Who’s going to pay for the wall? M E X I C O! MAKE THE DEAL WITH THE MEXICANS AND STOP SCREWING AROUND TRUMP!

  • utahdiablo January 20, 2019 at 8:59 pm

    The shutdown doesn’t affect me at all, as I have saved for a rainy day and live within my means….but what has effected me and mine was the lack of border enforcement from the Reagan Amnesty of the 1.6 Million illegals already here in the US and the lying Congress who swore to enforce our borders….so here we are 33 years later, and 11 – 22 Million more illegals here turning the USA into a third world crap hole….school lunches a problem? heck, all illegal alien children get a K – 12 education and Free lunch on We the US taxpayers…and L.A. Teachers on strike about class size? California is a Sanctuary State and where do you think most of the illegal aliens are already living or headed to?….keep America shut down until the wall is built

    • bikeandfish January 20, 2019 at 9:31 pm

      You do realize upwards of 50-60% of illegal immigrants pay taxes, correct? And in Utah their rent covers the property tax that helps fund schools? Heck, that same % of individuals pay actually fund the Social Security Fund, monies they’ll never see (ie a net positive).

      And now we are a “third world crap hole”? I thought we were the most prosperous ever under Trump? Those are two mutually exclusive claims.

      • Red2Blue310 January 21, 2019 at 9:11 am

        Its too ironic the baby boomers who are collecting social security and medicare have it subsidized by working legal aliens on HB1 visas. Ha, ha. And the retirees who voted for Trump resent immigrants being here.

      • Redbud January 21, 2019 at 2:16 pm

        Just because they pay tax, doesn’t mean they have the right to be here, that’s not how it works. It’s pathetic that you excuse the illegal behavior of immigrants who come here unlawfully, and even try to justify it. Build that wall!

        • bikeandfish January 21, 2019 at 4:00 pm

          Making assumptions again. Where did I make excuses and try to justify illegal immigrant behavior? Where did I say anything resembling that “because they pay tax” it “mean(s) they have the right to be here?”. Please show me. Because right now that’s a best a strawmen.

          If you could read in context you would understand my entire response was a rebuttal of utahdiablo’s fallacious claim that “all illegal alien children get a K – 12 education and Free lunch on We the US taxpayers”. Reading comprehension and critical analysis are important, Redbud.

          • Happy Commenter January 21, 2019 at 5:09 pm

            As usual playing both sides again just so you can claim to be right. Pitiful behavior B&F. Too many words and no common sense (again)!

          • bikeandfish January 21, 2019 at 6:21 pm

            Its funny that using facts to highlight errors “is playing both sides.” It’ll be even funnier if you ever recognize we are limited to such a false dichotomy.

            I’m glad you are such a fan though. Makes me feel warm inside on these cold winter days. You remind of another super fan, John, just with slightly better diction and fewer Trumpian seizures. Y’all should meet sometime.

          • bikeandfish January 21, 2019 at 7:26 pm

            Oops, *aren’t limited

    • Red2Blue310 January 21, 2019 at 9:07 am

      Utahdevil – glad to hear YOU are not effected (self centered) but when YOU finally are you should wonder why MEXICO isnt paying for Trumps distraction wall. Could he have lied to us? Where are the pesos?

      • Happy Commenter January 21, 2019 at 5:11 pm

        Do you lock your doors at night? Since you feel this way you should leave your doors open at night and invite the illegals live in your house. Liberals are totally delusional!

  • jaltair January 21, 2019 at 2:23 am

    Maybe our great country needs to chill. It will be okay, really, we’ll all get through it. This all points to how much we depend on government. Not so good!

  • KR567 January 21, 2019 at 8:22 pm

    Well we could all move to Mexico

    • Redbud January 22, 2019 at 2:09 am

      Maybe not a bad idea, I’ve heard they make the best margaritas!

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