As this government shutdown drags on, nearly a week into record-breaking territory, millions of people around the U.S. are dealing with both the pain that’s here now and the anticipation of the pain to come if Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell don’t allow the government to reopen. For federal workers applying for unemployment, it’s both: They have to pay bills now, and they’re realizing that short-term measures probably aren’t going to get them through.
According to the head of the union for Federal Emergency Management Agency workers, it’s gotten beyond immediate needs: “This week they’re projecting, ‘What do I need to do this week to pay February’s mortgage and February’s utilities?’”
Many school districts are similarly seeing the shutdown as a now and in-the-future problem when they think about how they’ll feed their students. Free and reduced-price school meals are currently funded, but some districts are worrying about what will happen when the funding runs out. In Vance County, North Carolina, they’re reducing lunch options and cutting out fresh fruits and vegetables, trying to save up some money. In one rural Kansas school district, the food director said that “I really don’t know how we’ll be able to continue feeding them without the meal reimbursements we get from the federal government, and I don’t know many other school food programs that would be able to either.” The shutdown may not get to that point, but without certainty, school districts are left to plan as best they can to continue serving food to kids who don’t get much at home.
The federal courts are also planning for the day they run out of money, which could come as soon as Jan. 25. That could mean furloughs, delays in civil cases, jurors going unpaid and possibly unfed. The effects will differ from court to court, but we’re talking about not just more people going without paychecks but about a fundamental disruption in the administration of justice in the United States.
The shutdown’s effects are already bad. If Trump doesn’t end his wall tantrum, they are going to get much, much worse.