The ongoing government shutdown has resulted in hundreds of federal employees being instructed to work without pay, national tourist attractions remaining closed and local businesses having to alter daily operations.
The longest in U.S. history, the government shutdown began Dec. 22 after the U.S. Congress declined to comply with President Donald Trump’s $5 billion funding request for a border wall.
Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) wrote a letter to Trump’s administration on Jan. 4. The regional leaders urged the president and Congressional leaders to end the government shutdown because of its negative effects on state and local budgets, government services, the economy and the livelihoods of federal workers.
“The national capital region is home to well over 360,000 federal workers, many of whom are employed by the departments and agencies affected by this lapse in appropriations,” the letter reads. “These federal employees have been furloughed or forced to work without pay, not knowing when they will get their next paychecks.”
The leaders also cited the threat the shutdown poses to public safety and health, especially in areas maintained and safeguarded by federal employees. The shutdown puts coasts and waterways at risk because of the shutdown’s restrictions on the daily operations of the Environmental Protection Agency and Coast Guard, according to the letter.
The reduced number of federal workers also leads to lower standards of safety and sanitation in national parks, according to the letter.
Five workers affected by the government shutdown anonymously filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration for requiring them to work without pay. The lawsuit alleges that the administration labeled the defendants as essential workers without proof that their work meets the necessary standards. The Jan. 9 lawsuit seeks to prevent the federal government from mandating employees work without pay.
Hayley Grande (COL ’21), president of the Georgetown University College Republicans, commented on the conditions of unpaid federal workers, but acknowledged that benefits could arise from the shutdown.
“It’s unfortunate that government employees are furloughed,” Grande said in an interview with The Hoya. “There are different perspectives within the club that see the merits of having the shutdown and the demerits as well, and it really depends on the outcome.”
The reduced number of federal workers because of the shutdown adds to the day-to-day considerations students must take when making travel plans or visiting D.C. attractions, according to Georgetown University Democrats Chair Rebecca Hollister (COL ’21).
“I think that us living in D.C. has also opened our eyes. I know traveling back, I definitely went to the airport earlier, so even just small things like that, and even the museums are closed,” Hollister said in an interview with the Hoya.
Beyond preventing federal workers from receiving their paychecks, the shutdown also hurts local businesses dependent on closed tourist attractions, according to Washington’s Top News.
While the metro system, local government, Library of Congress and Kennedy Center remain open, the Smithsonian museums, National Zoo, National Gallery, National Archives, Washington Monument, Rock Creek Park and other government-run attractions remain closed until further notice.
The closure of federally-run national attractions has decreased revenues for business owners and taxi drivers reliant on visitors to these attractions. Additionally, tour groups operating in D.C. have attempted to fill in gaps in tour schedules by working with privately-owned museums, according to The Washington Post.
Though the shutdown has caused some disturbances in the District, the city is taking efforts to alleviate limitations caused by the federal government’s limited operations. Daily work done by the local government such as trash collection will continue because of the District’s adoption of budget autonomy following the last government shutdown, allowing D.C. to raise and spend funds without the approval of Congress.
The LOVE Act, signed by Bowser on Jan. 1, enables couples to get married despite the government shutdown. The act allows D.C.’s secretary to issue marriage licenses in place of the clerk of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, which has not been operating during the shutdown.
“As we’ve said: You can’t shut down love,” Bowser said in a Jan. 11 news release. “This shutdown is senseless, it’s hurting real Americans, and we will continue calling on the President to work with Congress to get the government back open and our federal employees back to work.”
Bowser commended local businesses and event organizers for their efforts to keep the city running and provide entertainment to tourists and visitors amid the closure of national parks, monuments and museums.
“I am proud that through these challenging times, local businesses, event organizers and others are stepping up and providing our residents and visitors continued access to resources, attractions, and activities that make D.C. the greatest city to live in and visit,” Bowser said in a Dec. 31 news release.