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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 10:50 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."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 67649

Reported Deaths: 1912
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5613118
DeSoto365831
Harrison252036
Madison242266
Rankin228334
Jackson227642
Jones189958
Forrest180656
Washington166341
Lee146241
Lauderdale141292
Neshoba128692
Lamar122014
Oktibbeha112239
Bolivar111334
Warren109333
Lowndes107737
Panola105913
Sunflower103925
Scott100320
Lafayette97316
Copiah95428
Pike93636
Leflore93363
Holmes89248
Grenada84721
Yazoo83112
Pontotoc8278
Lincoln81741
Monroe79655
Simpson79630
Leake78825
Wayne76721
Coahoma76013
Tate73429
Marshall6959
Marion67720
Union63616
Adams62325
Winston62016
Covington61213
George5815
Pearl River55039
Newton54211
Tallahatchie53110
Attala52225
Walthall50220
Chickasaw46219
Noxubee45711
Alcorn4285
Calhoun4189
Tishomingo4175
Prentiss41210
Claiborne40713
Smith40513
Clay39614
Hancock39014
Jasper3869
Tippah36613
Itawamba35910
Tunica3377
Clarke32726
Montgomery3265
Lawrence3238
Yalobusha31510
Humphreys29311
Quitman2691
Carroll26111
Greene25012
Perry2367
Webster23412
Kemper23314
Amite2326
Jefferson Davis2316
Wilkinson21213
Stone1995
Sharkey1975
Jefferson1967
Benton1441
Choctaw1344
Franklin1272
Issaquena261
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 99390

Reported Deaths: 1733
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson13109243
Mobile9947207
Montgomery6835148
Madison537834
Tuscaloosa421373
Unassigned359961
Baldwin354425
Shelby328335
Marshall316736
Lee267845
Morgan239318
Etowah212131
DeKalb181913
Calhoun178414
Elmore172338
Walker152664
Houston139812
Russell13682
St. Clair133817
Limestone133313
Dallas132323
Franklin127420
Cullman122512
Colbert118113
Autauga116921
Lauderdale116719
Escambia108217
Talladega102614
Jackson9894
Tallapoosa85579
Chambers84138
Dale83424
Blount8004
Chilton7926
Butler76436
Coffee7616
Covington73520
Pike7097
Clarke6629
Barbour5755
Marion57424
Lowndes57224
Marengo55215
Hale47626
Bullock46411
Winston45311
Perry4424
Bibb4385
Wilcox42910
Monroe4214
Randolph40110
Pickens4009
Conecuh39310
Washington39112
Sumter36018
Lawrence3491
Macon33514
Crenshaw3185
Choctaw28312
Cherokee2737
Henry2633
Geneva2611
Clay2585
Greene25111
Lamar2222
Fayette2075
Cleburne1271
Coosa1012
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