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The Daily Herald: Stop harming people with government shutdown, Chicago-area Democrats say

Jan 14, 2019
In the News

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Political pundits might be looking for people to blame in the midst of the longest partial federal government shutdown in U.S. history, but what really matters is that harm is being done to millions of Americans, Chicago-area Democratic members of the U.S. House said Monday.

About 800,000 federal workers, including an estimated 7,500 in Illinois, are furloughed or working without pay. The fallout affects small businesses that can't get access to loans and low-income seniors who are "living in fear of losing their homes through no fault of their own," U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Schaumburg said.

Among them is Schaumburg resident Diane Rock, 72, who said she's disabled and fears she'll be evicted if her subsidy from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development doesn't come through. The shutdown has prevented the agency from renewing about 1,150 expired rental assistance contracts with landlords.

"Please hear my voice," Rock said during a news conference Monday at O'Hare Airport, "as I represent thousands of Americans who share my desperate need if the shutdown continues any longer."

The shutdown reached Day 24 on Monday and stems from President Donald Trump's demand for $5.6 billion for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and Democrats' refusal to fund it.

There have been reports of Transportation Security Administration worker shortages at airports in Miami, Atlanta and Houston. Operations at O'Hare and Midway airports have remained normal, officials said.

Air traffic controllers continue to work without pay, said Toby Hauck, a union leader representing about 400 people at the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center in Aurora.

U.S. Rep. Sean Casten of Downers Grove said food banks are setting up mobile food pantries at O'Hare, Midway and Rockford airports.

Casten exhorted people -- including federal workers in need -- to apply by Tuesday's deadline for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps. The Illinois Department of Human Services said it has enough funding through February, Casten said.

Just like Democrats, Krishnamoorthi said, Republicans in Congress "are very frustrated."

U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who represents the 16th District, was among two Illinois Republicans who voted "yes" last week to spending bills that would have reopened parts of the federal government. The bills weren't called for a vote by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican.

Kinzinger "does not believe a shutdown is good governance, and he looks forward to keeping conversations going on how best to reach an agreement on strengthening our border security," his communications director, Maura Gillespie, said later Monday.