Wednesday, January 16, 2019
JACKSON The ongoing federal government shutdown is doing more damage in Mississippi than in most states, an analysis finds.
Mississippi ranks eighth, according to WalletHub, thanks in part to its share of federal workers and its dependence on federal programs.
At 26 days, the government shutdown is now the longest in U.S. history. The second-longest shutdown lasted 21 days in January 1996, when President Bill Clinton struggled to make a budget deal with a Republican Congress.
WalletHub determined Mississippi's ranking after looking at all 50 states and the District of Columbia and considered in each the share of federal jobs, contract dollars per capita, the percent of families receiving food stamps, real estate as a percentage of gross product and national parks access.
At 18 percent, a higher percentage of Mississippi families receives SNAP, or food stamp, benefits than any state in the nation. The national average is 13 percent.
Earlier this month, the Mississippi Department of Health and Human Services announced that SNAP benefits for February would go out early on Jan. 17. The next SNAP payments will go out in March—if the president signs and funding bill, and the government reopens by then.
In Mississippi, more than 75 percent of SNAP beneficiaries are in families with children, and 33 percent are in families with elderly or disabled people. Despite the widespread myth that food-stamp recipients do not have jobs, 41 percent in Mississippi were in working families in 2017.
No Pay for FBI or TSA Agents; May Endanger Flying
In Mississippi, the shutdown affects about 500 U.S. Justice Department employees including FBI agents, more than 1,600 U.S. Agriculture Department employees and 400 NASA employees. They are among more than 800,000 federal employees who are working without pay or on furlough until the shutdown ends.
Other federal employees not receiving pay across the state include TSA agents at airports. Nationwide, TSA agents are calling in sick, and experts say it is making air travel more dangerous.
Yesterday marked the first time in history that members of the U.S. military did not receive pay due to a shutdown. On Tuesday, members of the U.S. Coast Guard did not receive paychecks. Mississippi has Coast Guard stations in Pascagoula, Natchez, and Gulfport.
The shutdown is affecting non-federal professionals across Mississippi, too, including realtors. Taryn Flint, a Biloxi realtor, told the Sun Herald earlier this month that she had a home sale that could not close because they needed a USDA loan guarantee.
Pelosi to Trump: Postpone State of the Union due to Shutdown
U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi asked President Trump Wednesday to reschedule his State of the Union address or submit it in writing. It was planned for Jan. 29. The last time a president submitted a State of the Union address in writing, rather than delivering it before Congress, was President Jimmy Carter in 1981.
In December, while Republicans still controlled both chambers of Congress, President Trump began threatening to shut down the government if lawmakers would not give him funding for a border wall. In a meeting with Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and then-incoming Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on Dec. 11, Trump said he would "be proud" to hold government operations hostage to a wall-funding ransom. In fact, he said, he would "love to see a government shutdown."
"If we don't get what we want, one way or the other ..., I will shut down the government, absolutely," Trump said.
Trump assured Schumer and Pelosi moments later he would not blame them.
"I will be the one to shut it down. I'm not going to blame you for it," he told them.
On Dec. 19, Democrats and Republicans in the Senate unanimously passed a bill to keep the government open after Vice President Mike Pence assured Senate leaders the president would sign it. Trump pulled the rug out from under Congress the next day, though, refusing to sign any bill that did not include $5 billion to build a border wall. On Dec. 22, the government shut down.
Trump also reneged on his promise to take the blame, and has since tried to rebrand the shutdown as a Pelosi-instigated "Schumer shutdown."
White House to Tenants: Try to Barter for Rent
The Office of Personnel Management, which oversees federal employees, sent them a letter late last month, suggesting that, absent paychecks, they try bartering with their landlords to make rent. Specifically, the letter suggested they offer "to perform maintenance (e.g. painting, carpentry work) in exchange for partial rent payments."
Earlier this month, Trump said he would allow the shutdown to go on for "months or years" if necessary to get border-wall funding. He also floated the idea of declaring a national emergency so he could bypass Congress and build his wall that way.
In a tweet Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., wrote that "resolving the shutdown will require good-faith negotiations by the Democrats," and said she supports Trump's goal of building a wall at the border. Trump supported her election bid last year, and held three Mississippi rallies with her in October and November.
The government shutdown started while Republicans controlled both houses of Congress.
On Wednesday, Airbnb announced "A Night On Us," a program designed to help federal executive branch employees who rent their homes out through the travel share company. The company will pay all executive-branch employees who rent their home out for three nights or more between Dec. 18, 2018, and March 18, 2019, for a fourth night up to $110.
Follow Jackson Free Press State Reporter Ashton Pittman on Twitter @ashtonpittman. Email him story tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.