From weddings to beer, the surprising impacts of the government shutdown

Posted at 3:25 PM, Jan 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-03 15:31:51-05

The government shutdown is approaching the two-week mark with no end in sight. And now that the holidays are over, its effects are becoming more apparent -- not just on federal workers' salaries, but on everything from science to beer.

Here are some surprising impacts of the government shutdown:

Low-income moms and their kids may not get nutritional assistance

Certain food programs run by the Department of Agriculture could be affected by the shutdown if it continues.

Among those threatened is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), which provides nutritional assistance to more than 7 million low-income women and their children.

The WIC is currently operating normally, said Rev. Douglas Greenaway , president and CEO of the National WIC Association (NWA), a non-profit education arm and advocacy voice for the program. But that could change if the shutdown keeps up.

A prolonged shutdown could "lead to significant health consequences if babies and young children lose access to nutritious foods and vital breastfeeding support," Greenaway's statement said.

"If the shutdown lasts for several weeks, families will be forced to make hard choices about how to feed their newborn babies."

Science experiments could be spoiled

Many scientists have had to cease their work for federal research agencies, and now the results of delicate experiments hang in the balance.

"Any shutdown of the federal government can disrupt or delay research projects, lead to uncertainty over new research, and reduce researcher access to agency data and infrastructure," Rush Holt, the CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said in a statement .

Holt pushed for lawmakers and the White House to come to an agreement and fund agencies like NASA, the National Science Foundation, the EPA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and the Department of Agriculture.

Native tribes can't get funding

Native American tribes that rely on federal funding for different services like health clinics and food pantries are out of luck, according to a report from the New York Times .

About 1.9 million Native Americans and Alaska Natives receive funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which is operated by the Department of the Interior, one of the agencies hit by the shutdown.

For one tribe of Chippewa Indians in Michigan, the cost amounts to $100,000 each day the government is shut down, the Times reported. The tribe is currently spending its own money in the meantime.

Folks in Washington can't get a marriage license

The office responsible for issuing marriage licenses in Washington, DC, is also closed , complicating the plans of couples -- like Dan Pollock and Danielle Geanacopoulos -- who are eager to tie the knot.

Last Thursday, Pollock shared a picture of himself and his soon-to-be-wife grinning outside a Washington courthouse where they'd hoped to obtain a marriage license.

"We didn't even consider that the DC court was federally funded, so we only learned about it when we showed up at the courthouse," Pollock told CNN.

The couple -- both of whom are former federal employees and understand the struggle -- ended up going ahead with their ceremony. They'll worry about the license later, Pollock said.

"It's just paperwork, after all," Pollock added. "It can be signed later."

There won't be any new beers

Consider this your heads-up, beer enthusiasts.

Among the federal agencies hit by the shutdown is the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which regulates the alcohol beverage industry.

Breweries have to apply for a permit and receive approval from the TTB before they can begin operations.

Those processes have been put on hold, explained Paul Gatza, Director of the Brewers Association , a non-profit trade association. "So it could delay some brewery openings once the shutdown is lifted."

Consumers could also feel the effects, Gatza said. Breweries must get new beers approved through the TTB before they can make them available to the public.

"If the shutdown goes on for an extended time," Gatza said, "beer drinkers won't see much in the way of innovative new brands on the shelves where they buy beer."

Trash and human waste are piling up in national parks

At least 70 national parks have closed across the country as a result of the shutdown. Some remain open, but they're seriously understaffed, and now they're dealing with heaps of trash and overflowing toilets .

Joshua Tree National Park closed Wednesday over health and safety concerns stemming from the toilets. Yosemite National Park remains open, but also announced there would be limited acess to the park "due to continuing issues with human waste and resource damage."

Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park both followed suit later Wednesday.

The panda cam is down

That's right. The Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington has shut down its panda cam , which lets folk keep an eye on the zoo's three giant pandas -- Tian Tian, Mei Xiang and Bei Bei -- while they do ... well, panda stuff.

Researchers also use the cameras to collect behavioral data on the trio.

The camera normally live-streams footage of the pandas around the clock, but it's deemed nonessential in a government shutdown, so it's been turned off, the zoo's website says.

And it's not just the pandas. The zoo's elephant and lion cameras are down, too.