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By Daniel Barnes
The federal government is well into its third week of a partial shutdown, and President Donald Trump appears no closer to a deal with Democratic leaders to reopen several key agencies.
As a result, more and more government functions are faltering, and an estimated 800,000 federal employees are facing the prospect of missing their first paychecks of 2019.
With negotiations at a standstill, Trump has threatened to keep key agencies shuttered for months or even a year if Democrats don’t agree to fund his desired border wall, and he is considering declaring a national emergency to try to get it done without them.
Here are some of the ways the country has already been affected by the shutdown:
National parks are filled with trash
National parks have remained largely open during the shutdown, but visitors have been left to their own devices with thousands of park employees furloughed. Trash removal and general maintenance have been put on hold, leaving parks to fill up with trash and bathrooms to overflow with human waste.
Volunteers have tried their best to keep the parks clean, spending hours removing litter and cleaning bathrooms, but they are fighting an uphill battle.
On Tuesday, the National Park Service announced that Joshua Tree National Park in California would temporarily close because unsupervised tourists had been damaging the park’s land and its iconic Joshua trees.
The National Zoo and Smithsonian museums in Washington have also closed after initially remaining open until January 1. Even the zoo’s beloved panda cam was not spared, going dark the morning after the zoo locked its gates.
Unpaid TSA workers are calling out sick
Transportation Security Administration employees have remained at work during the shutdown and are now set to miss their paychecks, which would normally be issued Friday. That has raised concerns that more TSA employees could call in sick to find alternative sources of income.
Last Friday, 5.5 percent of TSA employees at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport called out sick — two percent more than normal, according to an agency spokesman. If there’s an increase in call-outs, it could lead to longer lines and increased wait times for passengers.
Some TSA employees are even taking the desperate step of quitting their jobs to find a guaranteed paycheck, Hydrick Thomas, president of the American Federation of Government Employees’ TSA Council.
“Every day I’m getting calls from my members about their extreme financial hardships and need for a paycheck,” Thomas said in a statement Tuesday. “Some of them have already quit and many are considering quitting the federal workforce because of this shutdown.”
Coast Guard members continue to work without pay
About 42,000 active-duty members of the Coast Guard have continued to work without pay because, unlike other military personnel, their agency is part of the Department of Homeland Security, which has seen its funding lapse. The Department of Defense, in contrast, will remain fully funded through September 2019.
Most of the Coast Guard’s civilian workforce has been furloughed, leaving the active-duty members without their full network of support staff. Because of those limitations, the Coast Guard is providing only essential operations that protect life and property or national security, a spokesperson told NBC News.
Low-income housing subsidies not being renewed
The Department of Housing and Urban Development has been especially hard hit by the shutdown — 95 percent of HUD employees are furloughed. With a skeleton staff and no funding, HUD has been unable to renew more than 1,000 contracts that provide federal subsides to landlords who own and operate Section 8 housing. Hundreds more contracts could expire if the shutdown continues into February. The situation could delay critical repairs and place poor families at risk of eviction, advocates and landlords say.
HUD has advised landlords to use reserve funds to cover costs until the shutdown ends and contracts can be renewed. For many landlords who own low-income housing buildings, that means limited funds to deal with building maintenance and emergencies that may arise.
Food stamps at risk if the shutdown goes past February
The tens of millions of Americans on food stamps will receive their benefits for February, but that aid could be cut off if the shutdown continues into March.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced Tuesday that his department would issue February’s benefits a little early to take advantage of a clause in the stopgap spending bill that expired in December that allows the government to distribute required payments within 30 days of the bill’s expiration.
The food stamps program has only $3 billion in emergency reserves — not enough to pay for a full month’s assistance — and because of the shutdown, the Department of Agriculture has no money to pay for the program in the ensuing months.
Sturgeon told quit the ‘grandstanding!’ Hunt slaps down whingeing SNP chief over Indyref2
JEREMY HUNT has told Nicola Sturgeon to quit the “grandstanding” over calls for a second Scottish independence referendum as a war of words between the Foreign Secretary and Scotland’s First Minister erupts.
DNC names 20 candidates who will appear on stage for first Democratic debate
- Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado
- Former Vice President Joe Biden*
- Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey*
- South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg*
- Former Housing Secretary Julián Castro*
- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio
- Former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland
- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii*
- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York*
- Sen. Kamala Harris of California*
- Former Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado
- Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington*
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota*
- Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas*
- Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio
- Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont*
- Rep. Eric Swalwell of California
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts*
- Author Marianne Williamson*
- Entrepreneur Andrew Yang*
The DNC, which is sanctioning the debate, set two ways for candidates to qualify — fundraising and polling. To make the stage, candidates needed to have either at least 1 percent support in three qualifying polls, or provide evidence of at least 65,000 unique donors, with a minimum of 200 different donors in at least 20 states.
The candidates marked with an asterisk qualified through both polling and grassroots fundraising thresholds, the DNC said. The others qualified through polling only.
Those who did not meet the threshold for the first debate include: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock; former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel; Miramar, Florida Mayor Wayne Messam; and Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts.
Bullock told NBC News’ Chuck Todd Thursday in an interview on “Meet the Press Daily” that he was “disappointed” with the DNC’s decision but declined to say if he would challenge it.
“I certainly knew getting in at the time I did would give me fewer opportunities to be on shows with youand others, but I had a job to do,” said Bullock, who announced his bid in mid-May. “And if it ultimately ever came down to choosing between getting Medicaid reauthorized, getting 100,000 Montanans health care versus getting in earlier just to try to bump up on yet another poll, I would make that same choice time and time again.”
He added that he is an “important voice” in the field, since Montana voted overwhelmingly for President Donald Trump in 2016, and noted that there will be more opportunities to introduce himself to voters before the first primary next year, including future debates.
“I am the only one in the field that won in a Trump state and we need to win back some of the places we’ve lost,” he said.
The two-night debate, hosted by NBC News, MSNBC and Telemundo, will take place on June 26 and 27 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami. The event will air live across all three networks from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m ET both nights.
Ten candidates at a time will appear on stage, but the lineup for each night has not been determined, nor has where the candidates will stand. Both nights will have the same format, NBC News previously announced. It is the first of 12 primary debates the DNC has planned.
Lester Holt, Savannah Guthrie, Chuck Todd, Rachel Maddow and José Diaz-Balart will moderate the debate, NBC announced Tuesday.
The debate will also stream online free on NBC News’ digital platforms, including NBCNews.com, MSNBC.com, the NBC News Mobile App and OTT apps, in addition to Telemundo’s digital platforms.
Dartunorro Clark contributed.
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