ROCKVILLE — The longest government shutdown in American history continues, as Montgomery County feels the brunt of Washington’s political impasse.
Since Dec. 22, 800,000 federal employees have not received their paychecks. While some have been furloughed, about 420,000, an addition 380,000 federal workers are being required to work without receiving their paychecks.
The government shutdown is caused by deadlock in Washington between President Donald J. Trump, who won’t agree to any funding resolution that does not include $5 billion for a border wall and Democrats who will not agree to any resolution that does.
While the government shutdown is only a partial one, with many federal agencies such as the Transportation Security Administration, National Institutes of Health and Department of Justice continuing to operate on a somewhat-normal level, many federal workers have said their work has become harder to do.
Meanwhile Congressional leaders have yet-to-come to a deal, as Democratic lawmakers here in Maryland place all the blame on the president and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, for failing to agree to resolutions the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives has passed.
For Maryland, a state uniquely dependent on the federal government, given the high percentage of federal employees who live and work in the state, the shutdown has strained resources.
Chris, an air traffic controller who works for the Federal Aviation Administration, said while essential employees are still working at the FAA, many of the agency’s initiatives to update services and train employees have been canceled or delayed.
“Things are not happening, because all these people [that] are deemed nonessential — whatever the Hell that is — are sitting at home, you know, now wanting to come into work,” he said. “They want [us] to [do] their jobs,;we want to do our jobs. We all want to get paid for what we did.”
As of Jan. 18, 3,750 federal workers have signed up for unemployment insurance, accord to the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. With 23,000 federal workers in Maryland directly impacted by the shutdown, this has created a sharp increase from the 75 to 100 unemployment insurance claims a month from federal employees that the Department of Labor usually gets.
“The Department of Labor typically sees an increase in unemployment insurance claims during extended shutdowns of the federal government,” said Theresa Blaner, a spokesperson for the Maryland Department of Labor. “Our past experience has taught us how to efficiently handle any increase in claims, regardless of the source of those new claims. The department is committed to ensuring that all Marylanders who need help with unemployment insurance receive effective and efficient assistance.”
Given the urgency of the shutdown and its unique impact on Montgomery County, Council President Nancy Navarro (D-4) called on the president and congressional leadership to come to an accord to end the gridlock.
“While our nonprofit partners are doing all that they can to assist our residents, during the federal government shutdown, they too are stretched to their limits,” Navarro wrote. “Local government staff and resources are being diverted to help federal government workers and their families who need food, health care, housing assistance and other critical resources.”
In addition, the Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force, which is co-chaired by Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger, wrote a letter to the president and members of Congress, urging them to end the government shutdown
“State and local law enforcement work constructively with federal law enforcement to combat drug trafficking, gangs, organized crime and other threats,” they wrote. “In addition, the federal government provides needed training, equipment, and funding to state and local law enforcement agencies – support that is now threatened by the ongoing shutdown. A prolonged shutdown threatens this cooperation and strains local resources.”
Meanwhile, Congress is still deadlocked.
While Trump announced that he would be willing to temporarily restore the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program – a program that allowed people who immigrated to the United States illegally as minors to apply for work visas that Trump had repealed, in exchange for funding for a border wall – Democrats rejected the deal right away.
Instead the Democratic-controlled House has repeatedly voted on a funding resolution that would fund all federal agencies for one year, with the exception of the Department of Homeland Security, which does border enforcement. The bill would fund DHS for a few weeks, a timeframe in which Democrats and Republicans could possible come to a deal over funding for a wall.
However, the bill has not gotten a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) has attempted to pressure Republican leadership to hold a vote for the bill, which, if passed, would reopen the government.
“The majority in the Senate is complicit in the shutdown because we have not been allowed a vote on two bills that are on the Senate calendar that we could vote on today and [would] reopen the government,” Van Hollen said in a speech on the Senate floor Jan. 22. “I have one of those bills right here. I brought it to the floor in the past. It’s a bill that would open eight of the nine Federal departments that have nothing to do with the Homeland Security Department, or border security, or a wall.”