Where would a government shutdown be felt most immediately? | ET REALITY


Washington braced for a government shutdown over the weekend as Congress remained mired in dysfunction Friday. Federal agencies planned to send hundreds of thousands of workers home, who would not be paid until the shutdown ended. Hundreds of thousands of people considered essential, such as air traffic controllers, would be ordered to work. They also would not be paid until Congress reached an agreement.

The nation’s capital always feels the effects of shutdowns most acutely, but Americans beyond Washington also face consequences. This is where they would be noticed most immediately.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children would run out of funds in a matter of days, jeopardizing food and medical assistance for nearly seven million mothers and children. About 10,000 children would also immediately lose access to Head Start programs.

Some of the most essential benefits, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and a variety of veterans’ benefits, would not be affected. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is also expected to continue through October, according to the Department of Agriculture.

Private companies that depend on the federal government, even tangentially, would have to adapt.

The Small Business Administration would be forced to stop processing new loan applications. Many farmers would also be unable to obtain loans from the Department of Agriculture during the harvest season.

Routine inspections of a variety of workplaces could be limited or suspended. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration would have to minimize workplace safety inspections. And in the most recent shutdown, the Food and Drug Administration had to reduce food inspections at processing plants that produce fruits, vegetables and seafood.

Businesses and individual taxpayers would also have problems.

The IRS will see two-thirds of its workforce furloughed, meaning delayed refunds, closed call centers and lack of access to the National Taxpayer Advocate, an internal watchdog that helps fix problems. The tax service normally receives 46,000 phone calls a day in October.

Many national parks and recreational areas would close their gates, harming surrounding communities that rely heavily on tourism revenue.

Some states, including Arizona and Utah, have said they plan to tap state funds to keep major national parks open, but most will close as many park rangers and forestry workers are laid off.

The Smithsonian’s network of 21 museums and the National Zoo will use funds carried over from the previous year and remain open until at least Oct. 7, when it has said it will reassess its financial outlook.

Federal courts have enough funds available to remain open for about two weeks, allowing most federal criminal cases to continue.

The Justice Department has said it will reduce the processing of civil cases to the bare minimum until funding is restored. About 85 percent of Justice Department employees will remain at work, including the special counsel’s office, which will continue the prosecution of former President Donald J. Trump.

With many Environmental Protection Agency staff set to be furloughed, most of the agency’s inspections at hazardous waste sites, drinking water and chemical facilities would stop.

FEMA has also said it would not be able to continue operations at the 82 major disaster sites it currently serves, including wildfire reconstruction in Hawaii and hurricane recovery projects in Florida. If the shutdown persists for weeks or longer, the White House has warned that FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund could be depleted, creating an emergency if more disasters occur this year.

The permitting and environmental review process for many recently launched infrastructure projects could also be disrupted due to furloughs at the EPA and the Department of the Interior.

Even with much of the government shut down, federal student loan payments will still be due starting in October. Interest on most federal student loans began accruing again this month.

Customer service at loan servicing companies would not stop immediately, but could be reduced if the shutdown extends beyond next week.

On Monday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said processing of Federal Student Aid and Pell Grants should continue largely unchanged for “a couple of weeks.”

Air traffic controllers and Transportation Security Administration officials will continue to work without pay and try to minimize flight disruptions. But training of new air traffic control staff workers would be put on hold, as many airports are already experiencing shortages.

During the last shutdown, worker conditions were so bad that TSA employees considered walking off the job, helping speed a deal in Congress to end the shutdown.

Passport processing, which already takes 10 to 13 weeks, will continue but could be limited by the closure of government buildings in some locations that house passport processing offices.

Amtrak is expected to continue regular service.

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