How the government shutdown is impacting the Carolinas
From hurricane recovery efforts to workers not being paid, the Carolinas are feeling the impact as the government shutdown continues.
Author: WCNC Staff
Published: 11:27 AM EST January 15, 2019
Updated: 1:12 PM EST January 15, 2019

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With the partial federal government shutdown in the midst of its fourth week, the Carolinas are feeling the impact. 

From furloughed employees not being paid for their work to hurricane recovery in the eastern part of North Carolina, millions of people have been impacted by the shutdown that's connected to funding a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. 

On Tuesday, President Trump rejected a suggestion from South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham to reopen the government while negotiations continue with Democrats over Trump's demand for $5.7 billion to build the wall. 

Graham proposed the idea last week and said if negotiations with Democrats broke down, Trump would declare a national emergency to get the wall. Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware called Graham's proposal a "great place to start." Trump backed off the national emergency chatter Tuesday, saying, "this is so simple we shouldn't have to." 


How the government shutdown is impacting the Carolinas

Chapter 1

The shutdown's impact on the Carolinas

One of the most noticeable examples of the shutdown was the closing of national parks in the region.

Even though Capitol Hill is more than 400 miles away from the Queen City, the Carolinas are still experiencing the effects of the partial federal government shutdown.

A Yahoo Finance survey found North Carolina is the 37th hardest-hit state from the shutdown, while South Carolina is the 20th hardest-hit state.

Federal employees in the Charlotte region, including TSA agents and air traffic controllers, are being forced to work without pay.

When the shutdown is eventually lifted, Congress is expected to approve back-pay for impacted workers.

One of the more visual examples of the shutdown is the closing of national parks, including Kings Mountain National Military Park, which is roughly 35 to 40 miles west of Charlotte.

Signs and barriers at the park stop people from driving into the park's visitor center, though anyone can still walk under or around barricades.

Unlike what's been reported at other national parks, there were no piles of trash lying around at the park except for a few discarded soda bottles on the side of road.

But state leaders are worried about another clean-up, the ongoing recovery efforts from Hurricane Florence.

Governor Roy Cooper said the shutdown will delay the state from receiving long-term disaster recovery funds, and limit access to federal recovery experts.

People applying for federal loans to buy homes are also affected.

Kris Steele, a loan officer at American Security Mortgage, said some steps including verifying income tax records can't be completed as the IRS is shut down.

"Just talk to your loan officer and make sure you've got your ducks in a row, and you're planning the contract timeline appropriately," Steele advised.

As the partial government shutdown continues, Grandfather Mountain will offer complimentary admission to affected government employees.

Throughout the duration of the shutdown, affected federal employees and their guests (up to six total in the same vehicle) will receive free admission to Grandfather Mountain, with proof of federal employment, such as federal ID or a paystub.

“Being next-door neighbors with the Blue Ridge Parkway, we sympathize with the furloughed employees,” said Jesse Pope, executive director and president of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, the nonprofit organization that owns and operates the Linville, N.C., nature park. “So, we wish to extend complimentary admission to the park through the duration of the shutdown to all affected federal employees, as a small token of our appreciation.”

Chapter 2

Cooper's plea to President Trump

"The people of North Carolina are strong and are working hard to rebuild. But we are equally determined to hold the federal government to its promise of help."

On January 9, Gov. Roy Cooper wrote a letter urging President Donald Trump to end the shutdown. 

By ending the shutdown, Cooper said parts of North Caroline would be able to continue to rebuild from hurricane flooding and prevent future damage. It would also help restore the state's farming economy. 

Cooper also said while we continue short-term recovery help with FEMA's help, our critical long-term work to rebuild stronger and smarter is delayed with every day that federal funds are held in Washington. 

"As you witnessed when you visited last year, Hurricane Florence dumped trillions of gallons of rain on North Carolina, flooding whole cities and ruining homes, crops, schools and entire communities," Cooper wrote. "River flooding continued for weeks. Major interstates were closed. Forty-one people died and many more were injured.

"The people of North Carolina are strong and are working hard to rebuild. But we are equally determined to hold the federal government to its promise of help."

Chapter 3

Concerns over food stamp funding

Charlotte-area food pantries ramped up their efforts to feed the needy as fears over a prolonged shutdown could impact SNAP benefits

Earlier in January, several food pantries began preparing for the possibility that even more people would need their help because of the shutdown. 

On January 8, the Trump administration announced that benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, would be funded through February should the shutdown continue. 

"We are bracing for a possible dramatic increase in the number of people that need our services," said Loaves and Fishes executive director Tina Postel.

While 38 million Americans rely on food stamps, the program is only guaranteed funding through February. Right now, March is up in the air. 

The same holds true for children on free and reduced school lunch programs.

"If that funding gets cut in any way, shape, or form, some of those kids are going to have to pack lunches and might need to visit a Loaves and Fishes food pantry first so they have something to pack in those lunches," Postel told NBC Charlotte.

She's also concerned about government employees who could be without a paycheck. That's why Postel is urging anyone who can to donate.

Last year, the organization gave groceries to more than 75,000 people. Of those, 46 percent were children. 

At the end of the month, the Boy Scouts will be in neighborhoods around Mecklenburg County distributing grocery bags. Anyone interested in helping can fill those bags up and leave them for pickup. 

They will also be accepting donations at Harris Teeter stores between February 2 and February 10.

Chapter 4

Activists, federal employees protest shutdown

Government workers in the Charlotte area feared they'd miss a paycheck. Those fears came true.

Members of the American Federation of Government Employees and more gathered in front of the Salisbury VA Medical Center on January 10, chanting, “What do we want? End the shutdown. When do we want it? Now.”

Rosetta Sloan, AFGE secretary treasurer for Local 1738, said she wanted to protest the shutdown because it's hurting federal employees trying to support their families.

“We want people from Washington, our lawmakers, to come to the table to sit down and sign a bill that is going to continue to pay our employees,” Sloan said.

Many federal employees are in jeopardy of missing a paycheck on Friday. Activists said they want to show support for TSA officers and others working without pay. Those air traffic controllers received empty paychecks that read "0.00" thanks to the shutdown. 

“We have people that live from paycheck to paycheck, and they need their pay,” Sloan said. “It’s not like they’re not working for it. They’re working for it.”

TSA’s Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs Michael Bilello tweeted that passengers waited a maximum of 16 minutes at security checkpoints at Charlotte Douglas International Airport Wednesday.

TSA confirmed call-outs have increased but the organization insisted they are well staffed and security wouldn't be compromised. 

RELATED: TSA says increase in call-outs hasn't impacted travel

Before President Trump left for Texas last week, he spoke to media, pushing for more than $5 billion to fund a border wall.

“So we're either going to have a win, make a compromise because I think a compromise is a win for everybody, or I will declare a national emergency,” Trump said.

Activists at the protest in Salisbury said they hope a solution is found soon, so the hundreds of thousands of federal employees impacted by the shutdown can work and be paid for their work.

“It needs to end today, so we need to stop playing games with people’s lives,” said Essie Hogue, president of AFGE Local 1738.

Chapter 5

Charlotte businesses rally to support government employees

"We just feel like it's our duty as a business to give back to the community."

With no end in sight to the government shutdown, which is now the longest in U.S. history, local businesses in the Queen City are doing everything they can to offer support for workers who have already missed one paycheck. 

Pure Pizza, located both in Uptown and Plaza Midwood, is offering free meals to federal employees and their families.

"We just feel like it's our duty as a business to give back to the community," said Kristina Fleming, the front-house manager at the Plaza Midwood location on Central Avenue. 

All people have to do to receive a free meal is to bring in their federal ID. Fleming says about two dozen families have taken advantage of the promotion.

"It puts it into perspective, you know. What if I didn't get paid," said Fleming. 

It is a harsh reality for thousands of federal employees. 

Multiple Charlotte-area restaurants are serving up free food for federal employees and their families while the shutdown continues:

  • Pure Pizza at 224 E 7th St, Charlotte, NC 28202 -- Anytime, with federal ID
  • Pure Pizza at 1911 Central Ave, Charlotte, NC 28205 -- Anytime, with federal ID
  • Sky Asian Bistro at 9925 Leitner Dr, Pineville, NC 28134 -- January 20 & 27 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Your Mom’s Donuts -- Anytime starting January 15, with federal ID