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The many ways the shutdown is stopping vital services and research

The prospect of ending the partial shutdown looks grim as President Donald Trump and lawmakers on Capitol Hill continue to disagree on how to reopen the government.

As the shutdown enters a possible third week, it is further straining thousands of furloughed federal workers who have gone without pay.

Are you affected by the shutdown? Share your story here.

Here is a look at some of the work, research and funding that has stopped in agencies, departments and projects across the country.


A little less than half of the Department of Transportation’s roughly 54,000 employees have been placed on leave, but essential functions of the department remain in operation.

Some 27,138 employees of the nearly 45,000 at Federal Aviation Administration will remain working. All staff at the Federal Highway Administration will remain on as well, according to the agency’s shutdown plan.

READ MORE: 5 reasons why this shutdown is worse for federal workers

Federal grant money to states for airports and highways is separate from congressional appropriations and not affected by the shutdown. Air traffic operations are still coming into work as well. But in a week or two, when there aren’t workers in the agency to sign their paychecks, labor organizations may start organizing demonstrations.

“Once the first paycheck is missed, you’re going to see more protests, things like that — organized complaints,” said Jeff Davis, a senior fellow at the Eno Center for Transportation, a Washington-based think tank.

While the FAA remains in operation, Michigan television station WJRT reported the shutdown has stalled investigations into small plane crashes.

In Arizona, the shutdown slowed the Navajo Department of Transportation’s ability to plow snow-covered roads, according to public radio station KNAU.

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters following a meeting with congressional leadership on the ongoing partial government shutdown and border security in the Rose Garden of the White House in on Jan. 4, 2019. Photo by REUTERS/Jim Young

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters following a meeting with congressional leadership on the ongoing partial government shutdown and border security in the Rose Garden of the White House in on Jan. 4, 2019. Photo by REUTERS/Jim Young

— Ryan Connelly Holmes

READ MORE: Your questions about the shutdown, answered

Fewer air traffic controllers could cause flight delays

The number of certified controllers is at a 30-year low, resulting in a worker shortage, according to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

Paul Rinaldi, president of the group, said in a statement that the partial shutdown “almost certainly will make a bad situation worse,” because the Federal Aviation Administration’s training academy in Oklahoma City is closed. Without the facility, he said, fewer new hires are likely to be made and those who have already been hired will not get through the training process as quickly. The ramifications, too, could continue long after the government reopens.

“If the staffing shortage gets worse, we will see reduced capacity in the National Airspace System, meaning more flight delays,” Rinaldi said.

— Ryan Connelly Holmes

Farm and small business loans

During the government shutdown, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is not processing any new farm loans, loans for rural development, or grants for low-income rural Americans. The implementation of the new farm bill, which Congress passed in December, could also be delayed, William Rodger, a spokesman for the American Farm Bureau Federation, said in an email to the NewsHour.

Farmers cannot apply for the payments Trump promised to offset the effects tariffs had on agricultural exports. It is unclear whether the deadline, which is Jan. 15, will be extended.

Disaster loans issued through the Small Business Administration, which are given to both businesses and homeowners, are continuing, but a number of other business loans are not being issued. Those include the 7(a) loans, microloans and 504 loans, which all provide financing to small businesses.

FEMA initially said it would not sell flood insurance during the shutdown, but recently reversed that decision and has since resumed sales.

— Gretchen Frazee

Breweries delayed getting new labels and permits

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which is part of the Treasury Department, is not approving any labels or permits during the shutdown, the Brewers Association said in a statement.

That means any new beers breweries were planning to release are being delayed, Bill Butcher, the founder of Virginia’s Port City Brewery, said in a statement, and it can have trickle-down effects for brewery employees, farmers and distributors, all of whom make money when new beers are released.

— Gretchen Frazee

E-Verify checks halted

Funding lapsed Wednesday for the Department of Homeland Security’s E-Verify website, which allows employers to verify if a person is eligible to work legally in the United States. Roughly 750,000 employers use the website, which compares government records to information collected on the Form 1-9, the document employees are required to fill out verifying their identity and employment status.

Employers can’t enroll in the program, edit account information, or create, view or take action on any cases while the website’s services is unavailable during the shutdown.

File photo of Department of Homeland Security sign at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security is one of several federal agencies impacted by the shutdown. File Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

During the shutdown, “employers may not take adverse action against an employee because the E-Verify case is in an interim case status,” a statement on the E-Verify website said, including cases in interim status “due to the unavailability of E-Verify.”

— Julia Griffin


About 95 percent of the Environmental Protection Agency staff was furloughed at the start of this week, when the agency ran out of funding.

EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler sent out an email to staff last Thursday that the agency would run out of funding on Dec. 28, Bloomberg Environment reported.

Most of the agency’s 14,000-person staff worked through the first week of the shutdown, but around 6 percent of staff will continue to work after the agency ran out of funding, according to the agency’s “contingency plan” posted to its website.

Employee travel and contract work will also be restricted during the shutdown.

Superfunds sites, EPA laboratories and the agency’s emergency response duties remain in operation, but environmental groups are critical of the move, saying the lack of full capacity in some areas poses threats.

“The agency is reduced to bare bones emergency capacity” said Martha Roberts, a senior attorney at the Environmental Defense Fund, an environmental advocacy group.

“Shutting down EPA means that the agency responsible for keeping us safe from harmful pollution is literally closed for business,” she said.

— Ryan Connelly Holmes

Wildfire preparations feel the pinch

The government shutdown is taking place during the off-season for federal personnel on the front lines of fighting the nation’s wildfires. Still, it is further squeezing the amount of time they have to prepare for the next fire season.

“The amount of time between our first large fire detection and the day that our last large fire was declared out is increasing,” said Jim Whittington, a crisis communications consultant and retired federal official who has worked more than 100 major fires. “If we have 365 days a year and some of us are fighting fires for 300 days a year, the training schedule really gets compacted.”

The Office of Wildland Fire oversees five federal agencies — including the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management — involved with fighting wildfires on federal lands. Employees who want to respond to wildfire outbreaks must take a Fire Refresher course each year to be eligible. Some workers, including hotshot crews, aerial firefighters and managers in charge of coordinating fire responses, are also require to undergo additional training.

Most courses are between a day and a week long, but some last for months. Many courses are taught and attended by federal employees who were furloughed by the shutdown. As a result, the shutdown has already forced the cancellation of some courses, including the TN-KY Wildland Fire Academy, which was scheduled for the week of Jan. 7.

Firefighter sprays water from a hose as smoke is seen, while they battle the Woolsey fire in West Hills, Southern California, U.S. November 11, 2018. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Firefighter sprays water from a hose as smoke is seen, while they battle the Woolsey fire in West Hills, Southern California, U.S. November 11, 2018. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

No matter when the shutdown ends, it will still impact future courses set to take place later this year, said Whittington, who was employed by the Bureau of Land Management during past shutdowns. Because courses require travel and other logistics planning, he said, “if you don’t have a week’s lead time, it’s hard to do the next week’s worth of classes.”

Another impact the shutdown is having on fire prevention? Prescribed burns. Federal firefighting personnel often schedule managed burns of built-up fuel during the offseason to decrease the likelihood and severity of fires. With those employees deemed non-essential, prescribed burns are forbidden from taking place during the shutdown.

— Julia Griffin

Ticking clock on research positions and delicate materials

Many scientists — students to postgraduate researchers to lab heads — also can’t work. They’re stuck waiting and watching as their experiments falter and the time runs out on their federally-funded positions.

“As a postdoctoral researcher I have a limited amount of time,” said a researcher working at the National Institute of Standards and Technology who asked not to be named so as not to jeopardize their career. “My job still evaporates at the end of this position, and this is a concern that a lot of us share. We’re all looking at really short timelines.”

Not only are experiments and equipment lying idle during valuable weeks of lab time, they said, but some sensitive materials might be at risk.

READ MORE: How this government shutdown compares to every other since 1976

One USDA employee, who asked not to be named for fear of losing their job, told the NewsHour that they were worried about an ongoing research project developing potential food and fuel resources from plants. While their greenhouses are locked down, the person said, the plants are dying, and the scientists won’t have another potential growing season for an entire year. The delay will cost the agency months of work and several thousand dollars in soil, fertilizer, pots and greenhouse overhead, the researcher said, and will also set back the graduation of students relying on the data from this experiment.

“I’m really frustrated,” the NIST researcher said, “because this is compromising not only my own research career, but also the people who are relying on me for data and presentations and other material. We really just want to do the jobs that we signed up for.”

— Vicky Stein

At the Justice Department, criminal prosecution will continue, while civil cases are halted

The Justice Department, citing the shutdown, has said t that the agency’s “essential law enforcement and national security functions will continue,” but its websites won’t be regularly updated

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Steny Hoyer and Sen. Dick Durbin talk with reporters following a meeting with President Trump  at the White House on Jan. 4, 2019. Photo by REUTERS/Jim Young

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Steny Hoyer and Sen. Dick Durbin talk with reporters following a meeting with President Trump at the White House on Jan. 4, 2019. Photo by REUTERS/Jim Young

According to the Justice Department’s posted shutdown plan, certain investigations under its purview will continue, including existing criminal cases being pursued by the FBI.

The Justice Department said FBI agents, the staffs at federal prisons, and U.S. Attorneys, among others, are essential employees and not subject to furlough.

But civil cases can be postponed amid a shutdown because the government lawyers who handle them are furloughed. Exceptions arise when a court orders the Justice Department to continue working on a civil case.

— Joshua Barajas

Immigration court hearings are delayed, adding to concerns of huge backlogs

There was already a huge backlog in immigration court cases before the shutdown, with the number of pending cases topping more than 809,000 as of November 2018. (That amounts to a nearly 50 percent increase from the 542,000 pending cases that were on the docket when Trump took office, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, which tracks federal immigration data.)

But now, because of the shutdown — which furloughed immigration judges and attorneys — the Justice Department said in a memo that many of these cases will be “reset for a later date,” which could delay hearings by months or years.

— Joshua Barajas

FDA hits pause on some applications for new drug and medical devices

During the government shutdown, the Food and Drug Administration is not accepting new user-fee applications from drug and device makers.

The shutdown could delay FDA’s approval for a whole range of products, including generic drugs, biosimilars, animal drug testing and medical devices, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a tweet.

Tourists walk past a sign posted at the entrance of The National History Museum, stating that all Smithsonian Museums are closed due to the partial shutdown of the US government on January 2, 2019 in Washington, DC. - President Donald Trump warned Wednesday the US federal government may not fully reopen any time soon, as he stood firm on his demand for billions of dollars in funding for a border wall with Mexico. Addressing a cabinet meeting on the 12th day of the partial shutdown, Trump warned it "could be a long time" before the impasse is resolved. (Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)

Tourists walk past a sign posted at the entrance of The National History Museum, stating that all Smithsonian Museums are closed due to the partial shutdown on January 2, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)

Limited funding for cancer programs linked to 21st Century Cures and opioid-related programs carried over into 2019, so long as they were already authorized, Gottlieb said. The Department of Health and Human Services also said on its website that the FDA would “pause routine establishment inspections, cosmetics and nutrition work, and many ongoing research activities.”

— Laura Santhanam

Indian Health Services scales back what it can offer patients

Due to the shutdown, Indian Health Services suspended most of the funding for the Tribes and Urban Indian Health Programs, which cover the bulk of primary care for Native Americans living in urban areas.

According to the Department for Health and Human Services, services tied to the “safety of human life” won’t be impacted by the shutdown. These include prenatal visits, pediatric exams and clinical care to monitor chronic conditions.

But most administrative and office management services have been scaled back during the shutdown, according to the National Indian Health Board. For example, phone calls to remind patients about upcoming appointments were suspended.

— Laura Santhanam

What’s running (and what’s not running) at NASA

On New Year’s Day, NASA scientists monitored New Horizons’ flyby of the most distant object yet visited in space, nicknamed Ultima Thule (the name has drawn criticism due to its connection with Nazi mythology). Operations in the new year also continued for OSIRIS-REx, an asteroid-sampling mission now in close orbit around an asteroid called Bennu.

NASA TV and social media were “forward-funded” to broadcast the activity around 2014 MU69 and Bennu on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, NASA director Jim Bridenstine said on Twitter.

Some operations have also continued at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, where roughly 200 people helping support the crew on the International Space Station are considered essential employees during a shutdown. But the rest of the center’s employees — around 3,000 people — are furloughed, and the facility has been closed to the public. (Operations at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, which is funded by a private company, have continued.)

The shutdown has impacted NASA in other ways as well. Agency employees who review private operations — like the SpaceX Dragon Demo-1 commercial crew mission — can’t do so while furloughed. The delay may keep U.S. astronauts reliant on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft for longer than planned, according to Wayne Hale, a former space shuttle program manager and flight director.

— Vicky Stein

Furloughed meteorologists will miss meeting

The shutdown has threatened to put a damper on the world’s largest meteorology conference, where researchers present new research on weather, water and the climate.

Federally-funded researchers and students won’t be allowed to attend the American Meteorological Society meeting, which is slated for Jan. 6 and 9. Between 400 and 700 people who expected to attend are now cancelling hotel reservations and conference fees, said Claudia Gorski, the group’s director of meetings.

Gorski estimated the organization would lose around $300,000. But beyond that, she said, big annual conferences are important for early-career scientists in search of jobs, as well as for the dissemination of new knowledge and networking opportunities between people who are usually spread around the globe.

— Vicky Stein