Friday, January 25, 2019

By Jeffrey L. Boney

 

Imagine having to choose between paying your mortgage and picking up the much-needed prescription for your health crisis because the job you report to and the federal resources you have relied on to live day to day are no longer available to you because of things beyond your control.

Choices like those, and many others, are exactly what approximately 800,000 federal employees, roughly 4 million federal government contractors and countless low-income families — who rely on the federal government assistance — have had to deal with since the beginning of what has become the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. This has been the third shutdown of the federal government since President Donald J. Trump took the oath of office. However, as a result of the current catastrophic and life-altering shutdown, millions of the people who rely on the government for their livelihood — directly and indirectly — have been severely impacted.

People have had their Medicare and Medicaid disrupted. The stock market has been volatile. Federal workers have gone without paychecks and are in danger of losing everything they have worked so hard for while attaining the American dream. Safety has also become an issue.

Our food supply is at risk.

As a result of the shutdown, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) immediately announced that they had stopped most of their routine food safety inspections because the staff had been working without pay, including safety inspections on foods that have been imported from overseas, dangerous recalls, foodborne illness outbreaks and much more.

Our drugs supply is at risk.

The FDA has stated that, because of the shutdown, they no longer have the ability to review new drugs that could be beneficial in helping people get better and/or address critical illnesses, until the government reopens.

Even our airports are at risk.

Just a few weeks ago, a passenger on Delta Air Lines, traveling from Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to Tokyo, Japan, informed authorities that he had inadvertently carried his loaded firearm through airport security and onto the plane. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) confirmed this problematic incident took place. There is increasing concern that unpaid TSA workers may not have the same level of focus and, perhaps even worse, many of them are not reporting to work.

Just this past week, the TSA checkpoint in Terminal B at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport was closed due to the number of TSA agents that called in sick, protest the shutdown.

Things are getting more and more out of hand.

On top of the potential safety issues impacting Americans, the financial strain this shutdown is putting on the American people, especially in large states like Texas, is devastating.

This government shutdown will impact more than 3.5 million Texans who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits come February 2019.

SNAP offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families and provides economic benefits to communities. SNAP is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net. According to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, there were 3,580,375 people receiving SNAP benefits in Texas alone as of December 2018. Many African Americans and people of color are major beneficiaries of SNAP benefits in Texas.

Texas State Senator Borris L. Miles stated that while the shutdown is already hurting Texans all across the state, he believes it will hit the poorest Texans the hardest, because after February 2019, SNAP beneficiaries will no longer receive the necessary funds to purchase food.

“This is unacceptable,” said Miles. “I am calling on the Texas leadership to make emergency preparations to help Texans on food stamps and other programs impacted by the shutdown. I am prepared to roll up my sleeves and work with my colleagues to ensure we fund these programs adequately so that no Texan should go hungry.”

Senator Miles also sent a joint letter to President Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to make it clear that Texas is prepared to help those impacted in our state and expects to be reimbursed when the federal government reopens.

"This is not a Democratic or Republican issue, or a rural, urban or suburban issue, it's a poor people issue,” said Miles. “We need to do the right thing, help the poorest in our communities and minimize the impact of this shutdown.”

It is challenging to witness the very people who were elected to represent the American people, turn around and allow their personal politics and unconscionable political ideologies severely hurt the people they are supposed to serve — especially after being voted into office with the expectation of representing their constituents as advocates, not enemies.

The longer this government shutdown continues, the more the American people will suffer and the more America as a whole will be at risk.

The American people must demand more from the federal officials who were elected to represent them. Americans, regardless of socioeconomic status, must let their federal legislators and the current White House administration know that things have gone too far and must get back to normal for the sake of the stability of the nation.

To hold the country hostage because President Trump can’t get his beloved wall across the southern border, when he stated from the onset that he would make the country of Mexico pay for it, is unfair and disingenuous. Subsequently, any elected official who cosigns this mode of thinking and action is equally as irresponsible.

It is time for all elected officials to stop playing chicken with the American people’s livelihoods and start doing what they were sent to Washington, DC to do: Act in the best interests of American citizens and stop playing the role of “Enemy of the People” that they were elected to serve.

 

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