The government was partially shut down from December 22, 2018 to January 25, 2019. At just over a month in duration, this was the longest government shutdown in US history. The government was temporarily reopened on in late January in an attempt to sort out financial disagreements, but another shutdown in February seems imminent. According to Market Watch, it began because of a “dispute over money for President Donald Trump’s proposed wall at the southern border,” and millions of people have been put at risk because of the president’s strategy on the issue. Hundreds of thousands of federal employees were working without pay, the majority of food and food facilities went uninspected, and the economy may be in danger if the government shuts down again in the near future.
The FDA (Food & Drug Administration) obtains most of its funding for food safety inspections from the Department of Agriculture, which was heavily impacted by the shutdown. The FDA recommenced inspections of food facilities on Tuesday, January 15, but the workers were not paid until the government reopened ten days later. Countless employees who had been furloughed (temporarily laid off) voluntarily came back and keep the US population safe and healthy, and even more were legally required to return to their jobs without being paid. Those who didn’t return to their jobs were forced to rely on unemployment to pay their bills and feed their families. With staff in low numbers and spirits, the FDA was only inspecting high-risk foods like dairy products and fresh produce. They continued to respond to health emergencies like food borne illnesses and the flu and recall “any foods, drugs, and medical devices that pose a high risk to human health,” according to NPR.
The shutdown halted the business of many government-run and government-funded organizations, like museums, zoos, and national parks. They can’t afford to stay open without the resources that are usually provided by the government, which means millions of dollars were lost to the shutdown every day for over a month. According to the New York Times, “Some economists are already predicting that a shutdown lasting longer than February would harm the broader economy.” The shutdown will not continue into February, but it may continue in February, so government-run and government-funded organizations might have enough time to recuperate from the long period of lost income before the next one hits.
Congressional negotiators reached an agreement on the night of February 11, according to CNN. Very little information about this agreement has been released, but it could prevent another shutdown—if the president takes the deal. Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal said, “[President Trump] would be out of his mind and irresponsible [to not go through with the agreement]. I think the President has no choice. If he is the least bit sane and responsible. In fact he should thank the Congress for taking the lead. The President ought to lead or get out of the way and enable this country to move forward with everything that’s so important.”
As of now, no one knows where Trump stands on the deal, but his allies are publicly unsupportive. Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina said it’s “hardly a serious attempt to secure our border or stop the flow of illegal immigration,” and Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio considers it “a bad deal on immigration.”