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National parks, aid for poor hit as US govt shutdown drags on

Trump to make prime-time address as many federal workers cope with no pay

WASHINGTON : The partial shutdown of the US government is hitting Americans and no solution is in sight.

Garbage is piling up around rubbish bins in national parks that lack federal employees who have been deemed non-essential and are not being paid. In some cases, they have been replaced by volunteers.

The famed Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo in Washington were closed to the public on Jan 2 due to a lack of funding, though some zoo employees are still feeding the animals.

President Donald Trump will make his case to Americans in a prime-time address (this morning, Singapore time) that a wall is needed to resolve a "crisis" at the US-Mexico border, trying to make good on a campaign promise in a dispute that has sparked the 18-day partial government shutdown.

The shutdown is affecting security operations at airports, where Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees have been deemed essential, but a growing number are calling in sick since they are not receiving salaries.

"Call-outs began over the holiday period and have increased but are causing minimal impact... Wait times may be affected depending on the number of call-outs," a TSA spokesman said in a statement.

The poorest Americans are collateral victims of the shutdown.

Food stamps issued by the Department of Agriculture to feed 38 million people could be limited starting in February, with emergency financing covering less than two-thirds of that month, according to media reports.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development, the agency responsible for public housing, has asked 1,500 landlords to use their reserve accounts and not evict tenants unable to pay their rent.

BASIC SERVICES

Native American communities are also affected by the lack of funding for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which provides basic services to nearly two million people, according to The New York Times.

Ms Sharice Davids, a Native American member of Congress representing a district in Kansas, told National Public Radio that a Native American recently died because emergency services had been unable to intervene in time as a road was impassable due to a lack of maintenance.

On Monday, the White House said that even with nearly 90 per cent of Internal Revenue Service staff on furlough, the Treasury will continue to release refunds for overpaid taxes, often a crucial factor in business and personal finance.

A delay in the more than US$100 billion (S$136 billion) in refunds paid out each February could slow economic growth.

Federal courts have funded ongoing operations from accumulated court fees, which the Justice Department said on Monday could run out by Jan 18.

Some courts have stopped hearing civil cases in which the government is a party, while criminal cases continue uninterrupted.

After Jan 18, though, only critical court activities will continue.

Immigration courts - already buried under more than a million pending cases - have also continued work for migrants in detention.

But all other hearings are suspended and court clerks are not working. - AFP

WORLD