While the Trump administration calls it a homeland security crisis and Democrats calls it a humanitarian crisis, the reality is, it’s our crisis.
The government shutdown is now in its fifth week, making it the longest since 1995. While it hinges on $5.7 billion in funding for a border wall, the real cost is just beginning to be felt.
The shutdown began Dec. 22 after Congress was unable to pass a budget with the funds President Donald Trump has requested for the border wall. Any attempts at compromise have been futile, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said Congress won’t approve the funds, and Trump has said he won’t sign any budget that doesn’t include the money.
While the Trump administration calls it a homeland security crisis and Democrats call it a humanitarian crisis, the reality is, it’s our crisis.
Because of the shutdown, 800,000 government workers are furloughed or working without pay. Many federal departments have closed or scaled back operations, including Transportation, Health and Human Services, Justice, Homeland Security and Interior. Trump has said the shutdown could last for months or even years.
That is too long for the people who have already seen their paychecks drop to nothing.
My friend Meghan Frazier and her family are one of many going through a financial crisis because of the shutdown. Her husband, who serves in the Coast Guard, is one of 420,000 federal employees working without pay. The family lives paycheck to paycheck and relies on the husband for 95 percent of their household income.
Just a month into the shutdown and with savings depleted, they have had to take out loans to pay bills. Frazier also has resorted to creating a grocery list for the next few weeks containing cheap meals that she hopes to be able to stretch out for as long as possible.
“Unfortunately, if the shutdown does not end soon I don’t know how we will meet our next bill payments’ due date, as we will also have to make a loan payment,” Frazier said.
According to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, about 3.5 million Texans receive SNAP benefits, which will most likely be curtailed and eventually eliminated if the shutdown does not end soon. Central Texas food banks are stating that they are prepared to respond to families in need of benefits if no resolution is made, but even those resources are limited.
It is clear that a compromise or decision needs to be made before our worst fears become reality and the situation gets even more out of hand. Sen. Lindsey Graham had suggested for Trump to temporarily reopen the government while lawmakers figure out negotiations, but unfortunately he rejected Graham’s offer.
Whether or not a solution is reached, our friends and family should not have to suffer because of the disagreement, which is why even temporarily reopening the government while the debate continues should be the preeminent option. If this quarrel continues with the shutdown still intact, inevitably 800,000 workers will still go without pay, disaster relief funds will not go to storm-ravaged areas, and over 38 million low-income Americans will lose their food stamp benefits.