The government of the United States has now been shut down for longer than any other time in the nation's history. What does this mean? For starters, many Federal workers--who often live paycheck to paycheck--don't have an income. A food pantry has been opened on the Boston US Coast Guard Base. Over 400 families came for food during the first 2 days it was open. Government workers and their families are facing hardship as unpaid bills mount. Across the country business are trying to ease the pain with specials and freebies.
For individuals dependent on government assistance the picture is a little brighter--temporarily. Funding for SNAP (aka food stamps) and WIC ( a supplemental nutrition program for low-income pregnant women and children under 5) has been extended through February.
But the government shutdown has myriad effects for non-government workers. Over 90% of the staff of the EPA's Boston office has been furloughed, which means there's no one to enforce pollution violations. FDA food safety inspections have ground to a halt, but fortunately that's not as big a problem as you might think.
The Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is closed. A sign at Minuteman National Park reads, "Enter at your own risk."
So what parts of the US government are functioning? Here's a quick rundown:
Active-duty military personnel (other than the Coast Guard) are still serving and being paid.
Anyone who recieves Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid will continue to do so. All three programs are considered "mandatory spending." But new applicants to these programs will face some delays.
As you've probably noticed, the Postal Service is still in operation. That's because it's self-funded from the sale of products and services.
Like the Coast Guard, air traffic controllers and TSA staff are considered essential federal employees, and are required to work without pay. So if you've got an upcoming flight out of Logan, it's still going to happen, but you might have to deal with longer lines at the airport...
And the federal courts system currently has funding to stay open until Friday, January 18. So if you're due in court this week, you're in luck. Or perhaps not....
If you want to keep up with the latest news on how our government is (or isn't) functioning, go to The New York Times, courtesy of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (you'll be prompted to enter your library card number for access).