Shut down and no paycheck


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President Donald Trump turns as he talks to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at McAllen International Airport as he prepares to leave after a visit to the southern border, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, in McAllen, Texas. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump turns as he talks to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at McAllen International Airport as he prepares to leave after a visit to the southern border, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, in McAllen, Texas. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)


President Donald Trump gestures after arriving at McAllen International Airport for a visit to the southern border, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, in McAllen, Texas. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)


President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he leaves the White House, Thursday Jan. 10, 2019, in Washington, en route for a trip to the border in Texas as the government shutdown continues. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)


At the border, Trump moves closer to emergency declaration

By CATHERINE LUCEY, LISA MASCARO and ZEKE MILLER

Associated Press

Thursday, January 10

MCALLEN, Texas (AP) — Taking the shutdown fight to the Mexican border, President Donald Trump edged closer Thursday to declaring a national emergency in an extraordinary end run around Congress to fund his long-promised border wall. Pressure was mounting to find an escape hatch from the three-week impasse that has closed parts of the government, cutting scattered services and leaving hundreds of thousands of workers without pay.

Trump, visiting McAllen, Texas, and the Rio Grande to highlight what he says is a crisis of drugs and crime, said that “if for any reason we don’t get this going” — an agreement with House Democrats who have refused to approve the $5.7 billion he demands for the wall — “I will declare a national emergency.”

Some 800,000 workers, more than half of them still on the job, were to miss their first paycheck on Friday under the stoppage, and Washington was close to setting a dubious record for the longest government shutdown in the nation’s history. Those markers — along with growing effects to national parks, food inspections and the economy overall — left some Republicans on Capitol Hill increasingly uncomfortable with Trump’s demands.

Asked about the plight of those going without pay, the president shifted the focus, saying he felt badly “for people that have family members that have been killed” by criminals who came over the border.

Trump was consulting with White House attorneys and allies about using presidential emergency powers to take unilateral action to construct the wall over the objections of Congress. He claimed his lawyers told him the action would withstand legal scrutiny “100 percent.”

Such a move to bypass Congress’ constitutional control of the nation’s purse strings would spark certain legal challenges and bipartisan cries of executive overreach.

A congressional official said the White House has directed the Army Corps of Engineers to look for billions of dollars earmarked last year for disaster response for Puerto Rico and other areas that could be diverted to a border wall as part of the emergency declaration. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly.

“We’re either going to have a win, make a compromise — because I think a compromise is a win for everybody — or I will declare a national emergency,” Trump said before departing the White House for his politically flavored visit to the border. He wore his campaign-slogan “Make America Great Again” cap throughout.

It was not clear what a compromise might entail, and there were no indications that one was in the offing. Trump says he won’t reopen the government without money for the wall. Democrats say they favor measures to bolster border security but oppose the long, impregnable barrier that Trump envisions.

No negotiations were taking place at the Capitol.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said at one point that he didn’t “see a path in Congress” to end the shutdown, then stated later that enough was enough: “It is time for President Trump to use emergency powers to fund the construction of a border wall/barrier.”

Visiting a border patrol station in McAllen, Trump viewed tables piled with weapons and narcotics. Like nearly all drugs trafficked across the border, they were intercepted by agents at official ports of entry, he was told, and not in the remote areas where he wants to extend tall barriers.

Still, he declared: “A wall works. … Nothing like a wall.”

He argued that the U.S. can’t solve the problem without a “very substantial barrier” along the border, but offered exaggerations about the effectiveness of border walls and current apprehensions of those crossing illegally.

Sitting among border patrol officers, state and local officials and military representatives, Trump insisted he was “winning” the shutdown fight and criticized Democrats for asserting he was manufacturing a sense of crisis in order to declare an emergency. “What is manufactured is the use of the word ‘manufactured,’” Trump said.

As he arrived in Texas, several hundred protesters near the airport in McAllen chanted and waved signs opposing a wall. Across the street, a smaller group chanted back: “Build that wall!”

In Washington, federal workers denounced Trump at a rally with congressional Democrats, demanding he reopen the government so they can get back to work.

On Capitol Hill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused the president of engaging in political games to fire up his most loyal supporters, suggesting that a heated meeting Wednesday with legislators at the White House had been “a setup” so that Trump could walk out of it.

In an ominous sign for those seeking a swift end to the showdown, Trump announced he was canceling his trip to Davos, Switzerland, scheduled for later this month, citing Democrats’ “intransigence” on border security. He was to leave Jan. 21 to attend the World Economic Forum.

The partial shutdown would set a record early Saturday, stretching beyond the 21-day closure that ended on Jan 6, 1996, during President Bill Clinton’s administration.

Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Colleen Long, Alan Fram, Deb Riechmann and Zeke Miller in Washington and Nomaan Merchant in McAllen, Texas, contributed to this report.

For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. government shutdown: https://apnews.com/GovernmentShutdown

This story has been corrected to say 21-day shutdown was during Clinton, not Bush administration.

Federal workers seek loans, second jobs as shutdown lingers

By BRADY McCOMBS and JULIET LINDERMAN

Associated Press

Friday, January 11

OGDEN, Utah (AP) — Rachael Weatherly is a senior adviser for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but she’s considering trying to get a job at a grocery store.

Weatherly is among the 800,000 federal employees who aren’t getting paychecks for the first time Friday because of the lingering government shutdown.

They are scaling back spending, canceling trips, applying for unemployment benefits and taking out loans to stay afloat, with no end in sight for a partial shutdown that enters its 21st day Friday and will be the longest in history by this weekend.

Weatherly, a Maryland resident and mother of two young children, said a recent separation from her spouse drained her bank account, and she’s just beginning to re-establish her savings. She can’t afford to miss one paycheck.

“I filed for unemployment. I’m waiting for that to come through,” she said.

Weatherly said her day care provider agreed to defer payments, as did her mortgage company. But she still worries any late mortgage payments could negatively affect her credit score. The uncertainty, she said, is heightening her concerns.

“I just don’t see how this is going to end,” she said.

Roughly 420,000 federal employees were deemed essential and are working unpaid. An additional 380,000 are staying home without pay. While furloughed federal workers have been given back pay in previous shutdowns, it’s not guaranteed that will happen this time.

Government contractors, who have been placed indefinitely on unpaid leave, don’t get compensated for lost hours.

Most of the government workers received their last paycheck two weeks ago, and Friday will be the first payday with no money. Around the country, some workers are relying on donations, including launching GoFundMe campaigns. Food pantries have opened up in several locations.

In Massachusetts, a private group has stepped up to ensure that those working at local Coast Guard stations have access to food and clothing during the shutdown. Don Cox, president of the Massachusetts Military Support Foundation Inc., said the nonprofit group has opened up what he calls “empowerment centers” at Coast Guard stations in Boston and Providence, Rhode Island.

The group is helping feed 500 to 600 families a day during the shutdown, about double the typical demand, Cox said. He said he’s happy to help but angry that those working on some military bases aren’t getting paid.

“We’ve been doing this for 10 years. This is my fourth shutdown,” Cox said. “I wish the senators and the congressmen weren’t taking their paychecks. I’d feel a lot better then.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado said Thursday that she would not take her paycheck as long as federal workers were unpaid. U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, another Colorado Democrat, said his staff would offer free breakfasts and lunches to unpaid federal workers at his district office in suburban Denver starting Friday.

In Falls Church, Virginia, outside Washington, D.C., a school district is planning a hiring fair for furloughed federal employees interested in working as substitute teachers.

Tiauna Guerra, one of 3,750 furloughed IRS workers in Ogden, Utah, has been trying to get a job but said employers don’t want to hire her when she explains her situation because they don’t want to lose her in a few weeks.

In the meantime, she is taking out a loan to make her car payment, and she and her husband are delaying plans to move out of her parents’ house until the shutdown ends.

“We’re barely getting by,” said Guerra, mother of two small children. “We are not able to pay a lot of our bills. We’re having a hard time trying to buy gas, food.”

Guerra was among about 100 furloughed IRS employees who rallied Thursday outside the federal building in Ogden to call for an end to the shutdown. They chanted, “We want to work, we want to work.”

The shutdown is forcing many families to make tough decisions.

Michelle Wallace, a 34-year-old mother of four, told her 16-year-old son that the family couldn’t go to his basketball tournament an hour away from their home in the Peoria, Illinois, area.

Wallace, a nurse fresh out of school and strapped with student debt, realized there would be no last-minute deal to end the shutdown, meaning her husband, a federal worker, would miss a paycheck. They couldn’t afford to buy tickets or use the half-tank of gas it would take to get to the tournament.

“We want to be there to support him,” Wallace said through tears. “But there’s no end in sight for the government opening back up, I don’t know when we’ll have enough money coming in, and I can’t justify spending anything.”

Associated Press writers Steve LeBlanc in Boston, Matthew Barakat Falls Church, Virginia, and Dan Elliott in Denver contributed to this report.

Trump closer to declaring emergency; 800,000 won’t get paid

By CATHERINE LUCEY, LISA MASCARO and ZEKE MILLER

Associated Press

Friday, January 11

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is edging closer to declaring a national emergency to fund his long-promised border wall, as pressure mounts to find an escape hatch from the three-week impasse that has closed parts of the government, leaving hundreds of thousands of workers without pay.

Some 800,000 workers, more than half of them still on the job, were to miss their first paycheck on Friday under the stoppage, and Washington was close to setting a dubious record for the longest government shutdown in the nation’s history. Those markers — along with growing effects to national parks, food inspections and the economy overall — left some Republicans on Capitol Hill increasingly uncomfortable with Trump’s demands.

Asked about the plight of those going without pay, the president shifted the focus, saying he felt bad “for people that have family members that have been killed” by criminals who came over the border.

Trump visited McAllen, Texas, and the Rio Grande on Thursday to highlight what he calls a crisis of drugs and crime. He said that “if for any reason we don’t get this going” — an agreement with House Democrats who have refused to approve the $5.7 billion he demands for the wall — “I will declare a national emergency.”

There is no evidence of an immigrant crime wave, though. Multiple studies from social scientists and the libertarian think tank Cato Institute have found that people in the U.S. illegally are less likely to commit crime than U.S. citizens are and that those in the country legally are even less likely to do so.

Trump was consulting with White House attorneys and allies about using presidential emergency powers to take unilateral action to construct the wall over the objections of Congress. He claimed his lawyers told him the action would withstand legal scrutiny “100 percent.”

Such a move to bypass Congress’ constitutional control of the nation’s purse strings would spark certain legal challenges and bipartisan cries of executive overreach.

A congressional official said the White House has directed the Army Corps of Engineers to look for billions of dollars earmarked last year for disaster response for Puerto Rico and other areas that could be diverted to a border wall as part of the emergency declaration. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly.

On Friday, officials in Puerto Rico called that “unacceptable” and said the island is still struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm that hit more than a year ago and caused more than $100 billion in damage

Gov. Ricardo Rossello said the wall should not be funded “on the pain and suffering” of U.S. citizens who have faced tragedy after a natural disaster.

“To use this now as a political football is not what U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico deserve,” said Jenniffer Gonzalez, Puerto Rico’s representative to Congress. She said the island still has not received $2.5 billion worth of funds. “I vehemently reject anyone playing with our pain and hope.”

It was not clear what a compromise might entail, and there were no indications that one was in the offing. Trump says he won’t reopen the government without money for the wall. Democrats say they favor measures to bolster border security but oppose the long, impregnable barrier that Trump envisions.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said at one point that he didn’t “see a path in Congress” to end the shutdown, then stated later that enough was enough: “It is time for President Trump to use emergency powers to fund the construction of a border wall/barrier.”

Visiting a border patrol station in McAllen, Trump viewed tables piled with weapons and narcotics. Like nearly all drugs trafficked across the border, they were intercepted by agents at official ports of entry, he was told, and not in the remote areas where he wants to extend tall barriers.

Still, he declared: “A wall works. … Nothing like a wall.”

He argued that the U.S. can’t solve the problem without a “very substantial barrier” along the border, but offered exaggerations about the effectiveness of border walls and current apprehensions of those crossing illegally.

Sitting among border patrol officers, state and local officials and military representatives, Trump insisted he was “winning” the shutdown fight and criticized Democrats for asserting he was manufacturing a sense of crisis in order to declare an emergency. “What is manufactured is the use of the word ‘manufactured,’” Trump said.

As he arrived in Texas, several hundred protesters near the airport in McAllen chanted and waved signs opposing a wall. Across the street, a smaller group chanted back: “Build that wall!”

In Washington, federal workers denounced Trump at a rally with congressional Democrats, demanding he reopen the government so they can get back to work.

On Capitol Hill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused the president of engaging in political games to fire up his most loyal supporters, suggesting that a heated meeting Wednesday with legislators at the White House had been “a setup” so that Trump could walk out of it.

In an ominous sign for those seeking a swift end to the showdown, Trump announced he was canceling his trip to Davos, Switzerland, scheduled for later this month, citing Democrats’ “intransigence” on border security. He was to leave Jan. 21 to attend the World Economic Forum.

The partial shutdown would set a record early Saturday, stretching beyond the 21-day closure that ended Jan 6, 1996, during President Bill Clinton’s administration.

Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Colleen Long, Alan Fram, Deb Riechmann and Zeke Miller in Washington, Nomaan Merchant in McAllen, Texas, and Danica Coto in San Juan contributed to this report.

For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. government shutdown: https://apnews.com/GovernmentShutdown

The Conversation

Federal workers begin to feel pain of shutdown as 800,000 lose their paychecks

January 11, 2019

Families are feeling the pinch of the government shutdown.

Author: Jay L. Zagorsky, Adjunct associate professor, Boston University

Disclosure statement: Jay L. Zagorsky does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Partners: Boston University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.

President Donald Trump wants US $5.7 billion to fund a border wall to keep out undocumented immigrants and “criminals.” Democrats in Congress say the wall is a waste of money that wouldn’t solve any of America’s actual immigration programs.

Caught between the two sides are about 800,000 federal workers whose agencies are affected by the partial government shutdown. And although it started about three weeks ago, Jan. 11 marks a significant milestone: It’s the first time affected workers won’t get their paychecks.

As a researcher who studies people’s wealth, I understand that while the loss of a single paycheck may not seem like much, for many American families it can be devastating financially.

The federal workforce

Overall, the federal government directly employs over 2 million people.

Most of them work for departments such as Defense, Education and Labor that remain open because Congress passed spending bills fully funding what they do. About a quarter of the federal government – including the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice and Agriculture – has no new funding, leaving 800,000 workers in the lurch.

About 380,000 have been furloughed without pay, while 420,000 are deemed essential and have to report for work. However, these essential workers are not being paid either.

And on Jan. 11, they’ll feel the impact of that lost pay.

Hand to mouth

So what’s the big deal if these workers don’t get a single paycheck?

The problem is many Americans both in and out of government live paycheck to paycheck. Estimates range anywhere from one-third to more than three-quarters make ends meet every two weeks.

No matter which figure is right, it means that many American families cannot financially survive for long without earning money. And a significant share don’t have enough money to absorb even a $1,000 emergency expense – let alone a prolonged period of time without a paycheck.

There’s some good news for government workers who have been furloughed. They are eligible for unemployment insurance, a federally mandated, state-run program that protects workers’ incomes when they lose their job through no fault of their own.

Workers who sign up for unemployment insurance can receive a portion of their wages for up to half a year. For example, Virginia tells federal workers they will get anywhere from a minimum of $60 to a maximum of $378 a week if they ask for benefits, depending on their past salary. Washington, D.C., offers up to $425, all taxable. But even the maximum is barely a quarter of the weekly equivalent of the average federal salary of $84,000 per year.

Essential government employees inspecting bags at airports or guarding the president, however, have a much tougher problem. They are not eligible for unemployment insurance, which means their only recourse is drawing on their savings – if they have enough – or taking out a loan.

Going without a paycheck for a few weeks is hard enough. If the shutdown lasts months or years – as Trump has threatened – the situation could get very dire for the average government worker.

And while Congress is required to eventually pay those who worked during the shutdown, there’s no guarantee that it will pay workers that it forcibly furloughed.

Congress and consequences

While it’s hard to know when this shutdown might end, the good news is that Congress tends to give all affected workers back pay, regardless of whether they worked during the impasse. That’s what happened in 2013, when lawmakers unanimously approved paying everyone back.

The bad news is that 800,000 workers are caught in the middle of a political dispute over a wall. And in simple terms, the government is taking a no-interest loan from these workers as they seek (or not) to resolve it.

Resolved or not, I predict two other unfortunate consequences: More talented workers will quit the federal bureaucracy and more will avoid taking federal government jobs in the future.

EarthTalk®

From the Editors of E – The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Has the recent “border wall” shutdown affected the federal government’s ability to safeguard our air and water quality and otherwise protect our environment and public lands? — Peter Nicholson, via e-mail

No one is happy about the recent partial shutdown of the federal government in the U.S. as President Trump plays hardball with Congress on allocating funds for his “border wall.” While essential government services typically remain open in any government shutdown, it’s up to individual agencies and their administrators to decide how much of a presence to maintain during a shutdown and whether or not to furlough some or all staff.

For its part, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) curtailed the vast majority of its work once federal funding dried up on December 28, with only national security and emergency staff staying on. Some 13,000+ EPA employees have been furloughed with more than 100 agency offices across the country now closed until further notice. Until the border wall impasse is broken, the EPA has no staff to continue hazardous waste clean-up work at Superfund sites, inspect power plants to ensure compliance with air quality standards, review toxic substances and pesticides nor respond to Freedom of Information requests.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), the environmental protections we otherwise take for granted “grind to a halt” during a shutdown: “Chemical facilities are not inspected. Agricultural technical assistance projects are shut down. The protection of species stops. Research is also disrupted, which can lead to gaps in data or entire lost field seasons (and huge wastes of taxpayer dollars).”

As for national parks, about two-thirds remain open but have limited services, so visitors shouldn’t expect the same level of sanitation or monitoring that is customary. While there is no one to collect entrance fees, likewise there is no one to pump out toilets, empty trash or intervene in case of interpersonal disputes or wildlife encounters. All National Parks Service (NPS) personnel (except firefighters monitoring active burns or watch areas and essential leadership at headquarters) have been furloughed.

The Department of Interior has authorized individual parks to dip into their entrance and recreation fees to help pay for essential/emergency services during the shutdown, although the use of these funds will likely slow down maintenance projects by months or years as a result.

While this closure of national parks is an annoyance to Americans planning a visit, it’s also an economic problem. The non-profit National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) reports that NPS has lost upwards of $5 million in entrance fee revenue since the shutdown began, while local businesses and concession operators dependent upon servicing park visitors are also losing out on much-needed income.

Despite closures at the EPA, the NPS and other agencies related to the environment, the federal push to open up more land and offshore waters to fossil fuel extraction continues unabated. According to The Guardian, the Interior Department hasn’t slowed down efforts to issue permits for oil drilling on federal land and in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska’s Arctic. “While he’s closed the government to the American people, Trump has hung up an ‘open for business’ sign for corporate polluters,” reports Melinda Pierce, legislative director at the non-profit Sierra Club.

CONTACTS: EPA, www.epa.gov; UCS, www.ucsusa.org; NPS, www.nps.gov; NPCA, www.npca.org; Sierra Club, www.sierraclub.org.

EarthTalk® is produced by Roddy Scheer & Doug Moss for the 501(c)3 nonprofit EarthTalk. To donate, visit www.earthtalk.org. Send questions to: question@earthtalk.org.

President Donald Trump turns as he talks to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at McAllen International Airport as he prepares to leave after a visit to the southern border, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, in McAllen, Texas. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2019/01/web1_122110539-c7d2b3e2556746dfa41def024cf2597b.jpgPresident Donald Trump turns as he talks to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at McAllen International Airport as he prepares to leave after a visit to the southern border, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, in McAllen, Texas. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump gestures after arriving at McAllen International Airport for a visit to the southern border, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, in McAllen, Texas. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2019/01/web1_122110539-152384ee33e5433a84004ca4b087f526.jpgPresident Donald Trump gestures after arriving at McAllen International Airport for a visit to the southern border, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, in McAllen, Texas. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he leaves the White House, Thursday Jan. 10, 2019, in Washington, en route for a trip to the border in Texas as the government shutdown continues. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2019/01/web1_122110539-4ff2056cfbe545c1bd5c87f2a1a36152.jpgPresident Donald Trump speaks to the media as he leaves the White House, Thursday Jan. 10, 2019, in Washington, en route for a trip to the border in Texas as the government shutdown continues. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
NEWS & VIEWS

Staff & Wire Reports