The US government shutdown, caused by the ongoing dispute between Cogress and President Donald Trump over his proposed border wall with Mexico, has caused delays in wage payments to staff at the American embassy in Reykjavík. The Iceland-based staff are among the roughly 800,000 people who have so far missed out on the first payday of 2019.
A quarter of all Federal bureaux have been shut for 24 days so far, which is the longest US government shutdown in history.
The tense situation in American politics is directly affecting staff at the American embassy in Iceland, where both Icelandic and American employees have not been paid. A written response from the embassy to RÚV states that due to the currently-restricted funding, communication with the media will be limited to cases connected to national security or the safety of US citizens.
The shutdown has happened because the president and Congress have not been able to agree the country’s budget bill.
The first payday of the year was supposed to have been three days ago, but 800,000 employees woke to emptier bank accounts than they would have liked. Despite the lack of pay, over half of their workplaces are not closed and they have therefore been arriving to work as normal.
Trump wants six billion dollars to finance the border wall with Mexico, which was a key election promise. With the dispute ongoing, he has threatened to declare an emergency situation as a way of getting the finance through without Congressional approval—though he says he does not plan to take such drastic action just yet. Congressional Democrats have firmly refused to approve the money for the wall.
Silja Bára Ómarsdóttir, lecturer in international relations, told RÚV the situation could have wide-ranging impacts on the USA if it continues for much longer: “People can’t pay their bills. People are finding they can’t pay their children’s school fees this term. It will create enormous pressure both on Congress and the executive to end this stalemate.”