Federal prison workers frustrated by shutdown

Federal prison workers are frustrated with the government shutdown, with one employee adding that the prison budgets don't work like the government, meaning if they have $5, they have to figure out how to feed inmates for $5.

Posted: Jan 9, 2019 11:06 AM
Updated: Jan 9, 2019 11:15 AM

The US Chamber of Commerce had a message for Congress on Tuesday: End the shutdown.

"The shutdown is harming the American people, the business community, and the economy," Chamber executive vice president Neil Bradley wrote in a letter to Congress. "The adverse consequences of the shutdown are wide and growing."

The closure of key government agencies comes as American business owners are struggling to deal with the fallout of President Donald Trump's trade wars, as well as increased market volatility and growing economic uncertainty.

Trump has said the shutdown could last for months -- or years -- and while it most immediately affects government workers and federal contractors who aren't getting paid, it has created severe challenges for businesses that depend on government data, licensing or other functions.

Farmers, for example, would normally be looking to a monthly report on the supply and demand of agricultural products around the world to help determine what to plant next season. But the next report won't come out as scheduled on January 11 if the US Department of Agriculture remains unfunded.

Businesses that rely on monthly export and import data missed an update Tuesday because the Commerce Department isn't fully operating either. And US businesses that import steel and aluminum and are seeking an exclusion from Trump's tariffs may have to wait longer to hear if their application has been approved, because those applications are also handled by the Commerce Department.

The shutdown also poses challenges for industries that need approval from the federal agencies temporarily shuttered. Pending company mergers, for example, are being slowed because the Securities and Exchange Commission isn't fully staffed.

Breweries trying out new craft beers are stuck, too, because the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which must sign off on all new labels and packaging, has been shut down.

The list of nuisances goes on. The Internal Revenue Service isn't staffed to take questions from employers that must send out W-2s to workers by the end of January, or businesses who have questions about changes under the new tax law.

Employers will also have to wait until the shutdown is over to use the online E-Verify system to confirm whether applicants have a legal right to work in the United States. It doesn't prevent someone from starting to work, but prolongs the on-boarding process -- and opens up the risk that companies may have to let go of employees who don't later pass the check, even if they've already started working.

Trump's efforts to overhaul the global trading system has already strained some business owners and farmers. He's said that he wants foreign countries to change their practices and treat Americans fairly, but despite what the President has often suggested, it's not China that's paying for the tariffs but US importers. The duties have raised the price of goods ranging from foreign steel and aluminum to Chinese-made semiconductors and luggage for American companies.

Some businesses, like Missouri-based Cap America, have had to start paying a 10% tariff on a majority of their inventory because it comes from China. The company made most of their baseball caps in-house (and was appropriately named) until 2001, but it became cheaper to buy them from China. Now, about 89% of the caps sold in the United States comes from China. Cap America then embroiders them here.

In December, the company had to set prices for 2019 without knowing if there would be a 10% or 25% tariff on their imports. Trump had threatened to raise the tariff rate to 25% on January 1, but put off the hike while he and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to a 90-day truce that ends in March.

Phil Page, chairman and CEO of Cap America, said he doesn't expect to know how his price increase will affect demand until the end of the first quarter.

"It's the uncertainty that causes the most stress in this situation," he said.

Retaliatory tariffs imposed by other countries have closed off some markets to American farmers. China stopped buying American soybeans for about six months, though purchases restarted in December. Mexico put tariffs on American pork and Canada imposed duties on beef.

A new trade deal struck between the United States, Mexico and Canada to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement has offered some reassurance to farmers that markets to the North and South would remain open to trade.

But even though Trump and his counterparts signed the deal in December, it must still be approved by Congress where leaders from the Democratically controlled House have voiced concerns about its labor and environmental provisions.

Lawmakers are expected to wait for an economic impact study before taking a vote, but it's unlike that will come before mid-March. It's being done by the US International Trade Commission, which has suspended investigative activities during the shutdown. Plus, Trump has threatened to withdraw from the original deal in the meantime, which could invite more tariffs on US goods and risk an economic shock.

Despite the new trade deal, the retaliatory tariffs will remain in place while Trump keeps duties on foreign steel and aluminum. Many businesses and farmers have urged the administration to lift those taxes.

In the interim, the US Department of Agriculture has offered some financial aid to farmers hurt by the tariffs -- but it's not processing new applications during the shutdown. The agency said Tuesday that it would extend the application deadline by the number of days the government remains shut down, but won't pay out money until Congress votes to reopen.

"Uncertainty is a problem," said Brian Duncan, who grows corn and soybeans and raises hogs in Illinois. "We deal with enough uncertainty, the weather, the wind, snow, you name it. When you add more layers of uncertainty, it makes business more difficult."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 40767

Reported Deaths: 1533
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin13054790
Ramsey5127233
Dakota257094
Stearns248119
Anoka2360111
Nobles16766
Olmsted123518
Washington122840
Mower9742
Rice8738
Scott8234
Clay60138
Kandiyohi5871
Blue Earth5442
Wright5165
Carver4421
Todd4022
Sherburne3445
Lyon3322
Freeborn3090
Watonwan2450
Steele2431
Benton2353
St. Louis21816
Nicollet19112
Martin1725
Cottonwood1380
Goodhue1388
Winona13615
Le Sueur1191
Pine1110
Crow Wing11012
Chisago1051
Otter Tail1041
McLeod990
Dodge970
Carlton890
Polk863
Unassigned8638
Isanti800
Chippewa791
Waseca750
Douglas690
Itasca6912
Murray680
Pipestone674
Meeker621
Morrison621
Faribault610
Becker570
Jackson570
Sibley572
Pennington530
Beltrami430
Brown432
Renville372
Mille Lacs362
Wabasha350
Fillmore310
Rock310
Yellow Medicine310
Houston290
Swift291
Grant240
Norman210
Redwood210
Roseau210
Wilkin213
Cass192
Big Stone170
Koochiching171
Kanabec161
Wadena160
Aitkin150
Lincoln130
Marshall120
Pope120
Clearwater100
Mahnomen101
Stevens100
Hubbard80
Lake60
Traverse60
Lac qui Parle40
Red Lake40
Kittson20
Cook10
Lake of the Woods00

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 34080

Reported Deaths: 742
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk7196182
Woodbury331744
Black Hawk245759
Buena Vista173311
Johnson14058
Linn136683
Dallas136531
Marshall108019
Scott100210
Dubuque91822
Story8515
Pottawattamie80612
Wapello71431
Muscatine68544
Crawford6793
Sioux4970
Tama48229
Wright3971
Louisa36513
Plymouth3455
Webster3454
Jasper33717
Warren3111
Dickinson2953
Cerro Gordo2661
Washington2499
Hamilton1981
Boone1641
Clay1481
Clarke1433
Allamakee1384
Clinton1301
Shelby1200
Mahaska11917
Carroll1101
Poweshiek1108
Bremer1067
Pocahontas1061
Franklin1040
Des Moines1002
Emmet950
Cedar941
Henry933
Hardin890
Cherokee821
Taylor810
Monona780
Marion770
Floyd762
Benton741
Guthrie734
Jones690
Osceola660
Sac650
Butler642
Buchanan621
Jefferson620
Calhoun612
Iowa611
Humboldt591
Hancock581
Harrison580
Delaware561
Fayette560
Jackson560
Lee542
Madison532
Monroe517
Lyon500
Clayton483
Palo Alto480
Grundy470
Mills470
Winneshiek450
Mitchell440
Davis421
Kossuth410
Union380
Howard370
Lucas344
Winnebago330
Greene300
Chickasaw290
Cass270
Unassigned270
Ida230
Keokuk231
Worth220
Appanoose213
Van Buren210
Page200
Adair170
Audubon161
Ringgold151
Decatur130
Montgomery112
Wayne110
Fremont100
Adams80
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