Government shutdown impact will depend on duration

11:11 PM, Sep 30, 2013   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The impact of the federal government shutdown will depend greatly on who you are, what you need from Uncle Sam and the duration of the latest Congressional gridlock episode.

If you work for the federal government, you won't learn your fate until Tuesday.

"We're hearing that everyone's supposed to show up for work, and they'll be told when they get there whether they're essential or nonessential," Jane Nygaard, Vice President of the American Federation of Government Employees District 18 in Bloomington, told KARE.

Nygaard's union represents 10,000 of the state's 18,000 federal workers, many of whom are still awaiting word from superiors on whether they'll be furloughed.

"If they're not essential they'll be sent home. Those people that are deemed essential will come into work, and they'll work but they won't get paid."

Nygaard has been there herself. She worked without pay as a nurse at the Minneapolis VA hospital for three weeks during the 1995 shutdown, the longest such hiatus in U.S. history.

"We started a food shelf for the lower paid workers, those who live paycheck to paycheck and had to choose between paying rent and buying groceries."

This time around the VA Hospital and its employees will be spared during the shutdown, because those medical centers are on a different budget cycle. They're not dependent on the continuing resolution that became so politically volatile in Washington, D.C.

What's Open, What's Not

The National Park Service will shutter all of its parks and other attractions, including museums, almost immediately Tuesday if the shutdown begins. Those already camping in those areas will be allowed two days to pack up and leave.

The National Parks Service Mississippi River visitor's center, located in the lobby of the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul, will close until the shutdown ends.

"We've been told only one of our local employees in the St. Paul area is considered essential," John Anfinson, the chief of resource management for the park service, told KARE.

"If there's a shutdown, all the rangers and others in the area will have four hours to wrap up what they're working on and leave until further notice."

Minnesota state parks will not be affected, contrary to some published reports in the Twin Cities that caused confusion for news consumers.

Some Twin Cities media outlets reported Historic Fort Snelling would be impacted. That was not correct.

However, National Guard and Army Reserve units based at the modern Fort Snelling, as well as other Department of Defense functions housed there, may see some impacts depending on the length of the shutdown.

The Fort Snelling National Cemetery will remain open and continue at its current pace of burials, according to Artis Parker, the cemetery's director.

"We're told we will continue to operate as we currently do, but if the shutdown goes beyond Oct. 15, we will most likely cut back on how many burials we can accommodate."

He said the VA's National Cemetery Administration had not yet determined the extent of cutbacks, so it's difficult to know at this point exactly how the cemetery's capacity would be reduced.

Air traffic controllers and TSA security screeners at MSP International will continue to work during a shutdown. Drug Enforcement officers, Border Patrol Officers and FBI agents would remain on the job in the event of a shutdown.

The locks and dams on the Mississippi River, operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will remain open because commercial river traffic and flood control are considered core functions.

Federal benefits and offices

Social Security checks will continue on schedule, but some veterans benefits may be delayed due to the shutdown.

The Women's Infants and Children's, or WIC, nutrition programs may be cut back or cease during the shutdown.

But the SNAP food "stamp" benefit will most likely continue. Many of those federal nutrition programs are administered at the state and local level.  In most areas, including Hennepin County, those services will continue unless there's a prolonged shutdown.

"At the state level, we're be assessing the impact on local agencies, but much will depend on the duration of such a shutdown," John Pollard, of the Minnesota Management and Budget Office, told KARE.

Trials already in progress in the U.S. District Court system will continue, but not all court services will be available, especially if the federal shutdown lasts more than two weeks.

The U.S. Customs Service is expected to continue processing passport applications, at least until funding holds out at the agency.

The same general rule will apply at the Federal Reserve Banks, the system that regulate commercial banks and implements U.S. monetary policy by setting rates banks pay to keep cash in reserve. 

The Food and Drug Administration, responsible for food and medication safety, has said it could not afford to keep all inspection services running in the event of a shutdown.

The U.S. Postal Service will remain open, because it's an independent agency, not directly affected by the current budget stalemate.  So mail delivery will continue as normal.

But there may be nobody around to open the mail at offices of the Small Business Administration, which handles roughly 50,000 small business loans each year nationally.

The SBA is expected to close, as would the U.S. Department of Labor, Department of Commerce,  Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Some Internal Revenue Service functions may also go into pause mode, but the IRS would still receive tax payments.

(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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