No matter what your political affiliation or interest in current affairs regarding border security, any government shutdown comes with a serious negative consequence. Not only are certain services and agencies restricted during a shutdown, but federal employees and the public at large are put at risk of very real dangers to their health and well-being.
Ironically, in the midst of the 2018 partial shutdown related to acquiring funding to build the border wall, the Department of Homeland Security is affected. While still operational, the department has employees working without pay. As any sensible business owner knows, if you don’t compensate your employees, you’ll get poor performance in return. So when it comes to Border Protection agents, Coast Guard members, and TSA employees, you can expect less-than-stellar performance in these crucial areas of national security.
The Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible for maintaining the availability and safety of the nation’s food and water supply, and it’s getting squeezed by the shutdown too. The population depends on the USDA for this basic oversight, but in addition, families depend on the USDA to oversee programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). While families are expected to still receive SNAP, staffing at the USDA has been cut by 95%, meaning that any administrative help will be hard to find. As for WIC, the question looms about its viability during the shutdown.
What happens when the National Park system stops cleaning the bathrooms and yet the public keeps visiting the parks? There’s no need to guess since this has happened and the results are disastrous. With the bathrooms clogged and closed up, visitors are disposing of their waste along the roadside through parks like Yosemite, creating a terrible health hazard. Officials are asking people to use bathrooms in adjacent communities before entering the parks, but the issues related to poor sanitation continue because the road system inside large parks leads travelers far from useable restroom facilities for hours. Besides this basic threat to health, without law enforcement staff available, people are adventuring into illegal off-roading and creating real dangers for their own safety, the safety of hikers and wildlife in general.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) manages a number of programs related to low-income housing, and their contingency plan for the shutdown warns, “Payments will be contingent on budget authority being available from prior year appropriations or recaptures.” This means that people who need financial support the most, who are living on a shoestring budget, could be hurt the hardest during the shutdown. While HUD has provisions to continue to intervene during the shutdown in order to “address cases of threat to human life or property where the threat can be reasonably said to be near at hand and demanding of immediate response,” basic maintenance and oversight of properties will likely fall short of regular standards. According to a New York personal injury lawyer, “One of the leading causes of personal injuries arises from a lack of basic property management on the part of owners.”