I had a long conversation with a friend of mine who lives in Southern California. We talked at length about the shutdown, starting with the personal (yes, I’m okay) and expanding to the broader social implications. My friend described two aspects of the shutdown that are affecting communities in SoCal that are not widely considered here in the Washington, DC area.
The first is that the USDA Forest Service is not able to do the preventive fire burns, because of the funding lapse for all of USDA. This could have dire consequences for next summer and fall, since these fire burns are designed to forestall catastrophic uncontrolled fires such as those that affected Malibu and Chico last fall. The shutdown is preventing critical fire prevention acts from occurring.
The second is concerning the local prison. Prison guards are required to work but they are not getting paid. They are about to lose their second paycheck (assuming a biweekly pay schedule like I have). Many are already facing severe financial hardships. Could they be more susceptible to bribes from prisoners, such as allowing drugs, other contraband, equipment for facilitating escapes, or cell phones to pass through into the hands of the prisoners? It is frightening to think of this if you live near a prison.
My friend added more observations, pertaining to the lack of funds for the Departments of Interior, Agriculture, State, and Homeland Security. See below.
Another issue is the lack of staffing in Cleveland National Forest. When people flocked to the snow atop Mt. Laguna, the restrooms were filthy and overflowing, not being cleaned. Of more serious concern is whether trail rescues could be affected should hikers or others in our federal forest lands need help.
Our area has 19 Native American tribes and they are suffering loss of healthcare and other benefits. The poorer tribes may soon be in dire straits without their federal benefits.
A big concern is loss of CalFresh benefits. Our County was smart and managed to get February benefits out early before the funds got cut off, but there’s no guarantee for March or thereafter. A lot of people here are living on the edge, reliant on those benefits.
We are also concerned there could be attrition in federal firefighters if this shutdown drags on. While they are required to stay on the job, how long can people do that before some quit and take firefighting jobs at other agencies? The feds provide things like teams of jumpers who parachute into remote areas to battle fires.
A city councilman in El Cajon tell me the council’s request to tour a migrant child detention facility is in limbo due to the shutdown.
My own application for a global entry pass is caught up in the shutdown too. I’m wondering whether passport applications are being processed? At least I have that, but may have to stand in a long line at customs unnecessarily without the global entry pass, which is difficult for someone with neck/back pain problems.