Government shutdown affects Pittsburgh area

Marissa Pekular, West Hills Center Staff

The shutdown of the federal government may be coming to a close, but its impact has already been felt in the Pittsburgh region.

The shutdown began on Dec. 22, 2018, in part due to President Trump’s demand for $5 billion in border wall funding. Democratic officials are opposed to Trump’s request, even calling the proposed wall at the US-Mexico border an immorality or un-American. Although both parties seem to be unwavering, congress reached a deal on Jan. 25, temporarily ending the longest government shutdown in American history after 35 days.

Over the course of five weeks, 800,000 federal workers were affected, including nine departments and several federal agencies. Across the nation, the pain of this shutdown was heavily felt by government employees who were forced to work without pay. Airport security was at risk, national parks were littered with garbage, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had to suspend nearly all of its food inspectors.

Pittsburgh, like many other cities, was not immune to the devastating effects caused by the federal shutdown. The Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) felt the rippling effects for weeks. Flights were delayed for hours due to an inadequate amount of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers. The inconvenience was felt by the public while the airport personal was left frustrated.

Local federal workers were left with no income for a little over a month. At the time, these people were either forced to work without pay or furloughed until an unknown time. Several local organizations such as the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and the United Way came together to support the federal workers, providing basic needs funds or boxes of groceries.

People who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program received their benefits for the month of February on Jan. 18 2018. State governor, Tom Wolf, assured the recipients of WIC that the program had enough funding to continue through February. This program provides care to women and children five and under. The Wolf Administration also used state funds to pay some Pennsylvanian federal employees.

The Government will remain open until Feb. 15, allowing temporary funding for federal workers to return to work. In the meantime, Trump will continue negotiating with Democrats for his long-promised wall. However, if an agreement cannot be reached by the soon coming deadline, Trump promised to declare a national security emergency, bypassing congress all together. As the deadline approaches, many locals are weary, hoping to avoid another shutdown.