The partial Federal Government shutdown is now the longest ever, entering its 33 day as the Advocate Tribune goes to print. The previous record was 21 days when Republicans clashed with President Bill Clinton over federal spending back in 1996. Now, President Donald Trump is at an impasse with Democrats over funding for a border wall along the United States and Mexico border. An estimated 800,000 federal workers have been affected either by having to work without pay while the shutdown lasts or by being furloughed, with wider economic ripples impacting every corner of the country.
Minnesota’s new governor, Tim Walz, has said he wants to try and minimize the effect the shutdown has on Minnesotans. “Federal grants help fund critical services in Minnesota. This includes support for Medicaid, highways, Temporary Assistance for Families, Veterans Healthcare, and Food Security programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (S.N.A.P.) and school lunch,” he said recently. Governor Walz has directed Minnesota Management and Budget to explore how to cover federal funds unavailable because of the shutdown, Walz’s office announced in a statement last Tuesday. Minnesota’s budget director said the state had paid nearly $100 million to cover the costs of key federal programs but still didn't know if it could expect repayment from the feds. Budget commissioner, Myron Frans, said roughly 6,000 federal employees in the state have been furloughed or asked to work without pay during the shutdown. Around 1,000 of them have applied for unemployment.
The story of Bruce Peterson, a farmer from Northfield Minnesota, got a lot of media coverage last week. Peterson is waiting on the government shutdown to end so he can get a loan to rebuild his farm that was damaged by a tornado in September of last year. The loan would be through the Farm Service Agency (F.S.A.), which hasn’t been fully operational since December 28th. Farmers across the state find themselves in similar situations, and are increasingly voicing their frustration with the political impasse.
The shutdown will also affect any farmers who were set to receive subsidies through the Market Facilitation Program due to tariffs put in place by President Trump last year. The Market Facilitation Program, which is administered by the F.S.A., was set to provide direct payments to eligible producers of soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy, hogs, shelled almonds, and sweet cherries. Due to the shutdown the offices that accept applications and handle payments are closed. The shutdown will impact any farmers who have a loan with the F.S.A. Farmers will have the agency’s name on any checks they get, no one at the agency can sign their name on those checks, and they can’t be deposited. Farmers also can’t apply for a guaranteed loan from their local bank, because they have to look for F.S.A. concurrence when decisions are made on one.
U.S.D.A. Secretary, Sonny Perdue, announced January 16th that some field offices will be reopening for three days to try and solve some of these issues. Roughly 2,500 employees are being called back to work without pay (Employees will be eligible for backpay under legislation signed on January 16th) to provide limited services to farmers. The goal is to help farmers process payments made before the end of 2018, continue expired financing statements and open mail to identify priority items. “we are doing our best to minimize the impact of the partial federal funding lapse on America’s agricultural producers,” Perdue said in a statement.
The U.S.D.A. is extending the deadline for applications for the Market Facilitation Program payments. The U.S.D.A. will continue taking applications when the government shutdown ends. The deadline will extend for as many days as F.S.A. offices are closed by the shutdown.
The shutdown is also leading to some concerning health issues. At this week’s Yellow Medicine County Board meeting, Liz Auch from Countryside Public Health, discussed how the shutdown has impacted the Women, Infants, and Children Program (W.I.C.). The State of Minnesota is providing the funds to keep the program operational, this ensures that low income parents and children up to five continue to have access to food and health care. Other States aren’t so lucky, nearby in Wisconsin the WIC program is at risk of losing funding, and will only be stable until early February. As the government shutdown continues. There are growing concerns over how federally funded programs like W.I.C. will continue.
There have also been multiple Native American health clinics that have closed. Seventy-eight percent of Native Americans live in urban areas and rely on Urban Indian Health Programs. Most of these urban programs have shut their doors or are struggling to find the funds to operate during the shutdown, impacting even those Native Americans who live outside of the Metro area.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) has also been impacted by the shutdown, causing more public health concerns. On December 22nd of last year the F.D.A. stopped some routine food inspections, many research activities, and they also stopped accepting approval applications for new drugs. The F.D.A. announced this week they may start to call back more furloughed workers to improve the agency's inspection of high risk foods.
The State of Minnesota has been providing funding for the costs of some federal government programs to prevent a disruption in service to Minnesotans. But now during the longest shutdown in U.S. history some officials are concerned federal reimbursements are at risk the longer this shutdown continues.
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