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Bridging The Gap
Crash safety to craft beer: Shutdown impacts US in surprising ways
  Wednesday 09 January, 2019
Crash safety to craft beer: Shutdown impacts US in surprising ways

Mike Yohannes has run a food stand in downtown Washington, D.C., for the past 20 years, surviving economic downturns while selling hot dogs, candy bars and an assortment of other edible items.

But the latest government shutdown could be the death knell for his business.

With foot traffic markedly down at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 11th Street where he operates, Yohannes said sales have fallen about 60 percent during the closure, which has affected nearby federal offices, museums and other tourist spots.

“Business is very, very bad,” said Johannes, adding that he pays about $525 in license and other fees every three months, besides food costs. “If it continues like this another two, three months, I’m looking at another job.”

While President Donald Trump and Democratic congressional leaders continue to haggle over his demand for $5.7 billion to fund a southern border wall, with both sides going on national TV to make their case Tuesday night, millions of Americans increasingly feel the impact of the impasse.

The effects are especially detrimental to the folks in the area around Yohannes’ stand, where merchants have been hammered by the partial shutdown.

Within a few blocks are the headquarters of the Internal Revenue Service and the Commerce and Justice departments, which have furloughed tens of thousands of federal employees or required many to work without pay.

At Nordstrom Rack on E Street, 10 or more customers are typically lined up at the checkout register around midday as federal workers stop in during their lunch hour. There was no line Tuesday, and manager Mary Alvarez said a drop in sales of roughly 25 percent during the closure has forced the layoff of five or six workers.

“January is normally a slow month, but with the shutdown it’s double,” Alvarez says. “We’re struggling to hold onto our employees.”

Several blocks away, the Eye Street Grill shares a building with the Federal Aviation Administration, which has furloughed about 18,000 non-essential employees since Dec. 22. Restaurant owners Yang Soon Kim and husband Il hawn Kim were already reeling from the usual holiday slowdown, but the minimal traffic at the usually bustling buffet line for breakfast and lunch heightened their concerns.

They’re thankful the Department of Veteran Affairs across the street remains open.

“If the VA closed, we’d be almost dead,’’ she said.

Outside the nation’s capital, the shutdown’s most obvious impact has come in the form of trash pile ups and overflowing toilets at national parks, where bathrooms have been closed and garbage is not getting picked up. On Tuesday, Joshua Tree National Park in California said it would close down Thursday morning to address maintenance issues.

Longer security lines are also cropping up at airports hampered by record numbers of Transportation Safety Authority employees calling in sick.

Averting a massive outcry, the Trump administration announced Monday that tax refunds would be issued even if the shutdown lasts into the filing season, which this year begins Jan. 28.

Still, federal employees are scheduled to begin missing paychecks this week, prompting House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) to say of the closure, “In another context we would call that an act of kidnapping or terrorism. … This is devastating to morale and devastating to efficiency.’’

Other residents throughout the country are also feeling the impact in a number of ways, with the departments of Agriculture, Homeland Security, Transportation, Justice, Interior, State, Commerce and Housing and Urban Development temporarily closing their doors.

Here are some of the effects:

– Accidents like last week’s horrific crash in Florida that killed seven people – five of them children on the way to Disney World – will not be investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board, whose employees are mostly on furlough.

Accident investigators rely on the NTSB’s reconstruction efforts to pinpoint the cause, and those findings are used to recommend safety improvements on the nation’s highways.

– The U.S. Department of Agriculture will delay the release of crucial crop reports that investors and farmers rely on to get a sense for what the agricultural market will look like in the upcoming season.

The USDA also runs the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and there was concern the benefit commonly known as food stamps would be impacted by the shutdown, but the agency announced on Tuesday that the 44 million recipients could count on them at least through February.

– Members of Native American tribes may have their health care and education programs threatened by the shutdown. Those services were guaranteed by the federal government as part of treaties in exchange for large extensions of land, but the New York Times reports the Bureau of Indian Affairs was furloughing 2,295 of its 4,057 employees, curtailing service.

– The National Zoo in Washington and the Smithsonian Institution, which welcomed 30 million visitors in 2017, have temporarily closed. The Smithsonian – a cultural treasure with free admission – is composed of 19 museums and galleries, mostly in nation’s capital but also including two in New York.

– In a biting bit of irony, the courts that review the cases of undocumented immigrants – the same people Trump wants to keep away with the wall – will see their backlog increase because more than 300 judges have been furloughed. Current cases of detained immigrants will continue as scheduled, but future ones will be delayed, possibly for years.

– Fans of creative craft beers will have to settle for their current choices for a while, because the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has ceased operations during the shutdown, meaning no new labels will get approved until the folks in Washington reach a deal.

Could a new beer summit be in the offing? Don’t hold your breath.

Source: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/01/09/federal-shutdown-impacting-everyday-american-life-jobs-vacations/2519465002/

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