Q&A: How A Federal Government Shutdown Affects The Northwest
The federal government is on the brink of a partial shutdown at midnight Friday, raising a lot of questions.
Here's a rundown on what to expect in Oregon and southwest Washington.
Q: How much will the average person notice this shutdown?
If you’re not a federal employee — or the family member of one — it may not affect your daily life. If you get Social Security, your check should continue to arrive in the mail. Federal screeners and flight controllers will still be working at airports, so planes will be flying as usual.
But you could run into trouble if you need to quickly replace a passport. Ditto if you’re trying to work out a benefits problem with Social Security or the Veterans Administration, or a tax issue with the IRS.
In a shutdown, “people realize pretty quickly all the things we rely on the federal government for,” said Ian Hoffman, an official for the American Federation of Government Employees who covers Oregon, Nevada and Northern California.
Q: How is the federal workforce affected in Oregon?
There are nearly 28,000 federal workers in Oregon, plus another 3,400 in Clark County, Washington. For purposes of this shutdown, they can be put in three rough categories.
About a third are not affected because they work for the U.S. Postal Service, the Bonneville Power Administration or other entities that have their own funding sources.
Another third will be told to stay on the job because they are deemed essential to protect public safety and federal property. They include airport screeners with the Transportation Security Administration, federal law enforcement, the military and Veterans Administration caregivers.
These personnel may be regarded as essential, but they won’t be paid until the shutdown is ended and funding once again flows to the federal agencies. As long as any shutdown is ended before Feb. 1, workers would still get their paycheck at the usual time.
The last group — also about a third of the local federal workforce — will be told they won’t be working during the shutdown and they won’t be paid. Expect to see a lot of furloughed workers from the Forest Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the IRS and an alphabet soup of other federal agencies.
In previous shutdowns, Congress has agreed to pay furloughed workers after the shutdown ended. But there is no guarantee that would happen this time.
Q: What about national parks and monuments?
Federal parks and monuments were totally locked down in the 2013 shutdown, producing iconic photos of aged veterans denied entrance to a World War II memorial and vacationers being turned away from national parks.
The Trump administration announced that it wants to keep these places open whenever possible.
“We are prioritizing access to the most accessible and most iconic areas of parks and public lands,” Andrew Munoz, a National Park Service spokesman for the Pacific West Region, said in an email. He said the agency is working on contingency plans that would allow attractions to remain open where federal personnel wouldn’t be required.
However, several local closures are planned. Workers at the Fort Vancouver National Park Site and at the visitor’s center at Bonneville Dam said they will be closed in the event of a shutdown.
Some of Oregon’s major federal parks would be less affected because it’s winter. The lodge at Crater Lake National Park and the visitors center at Rim Village is closed for the season, and tours aren’t conducted this time of year at the Oregon Caves National Monument. The Lava Lands Visitor Center near Bend is closed until May.
Q: What about state programs like Medicaid and Temporary Aid to Needy Families that depend so heavily on federal money?
Oregon receives more than $11 billion a year in federal funds for a wide variety of programs. Representatives for the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Human Services — two of the largest recipients of federal money — said their agencies have enough funding to largely continue with business as usual for several weeks.
“There would be a lag time of several weeks before there would be an impact” on recipients, said Jay Remy, communications director for DHS.
However, officials in Washington, D.C., and around the country have warned that the consequences could become more severe if a shutdown were to drag on for several weeks.
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