Washington is bracing for a government shutdown this weekend as Congress remains mired in dysfunction Friday. Federal agencies planned to send home hundreds of thousands of workers, who would not be paid until the shutdown ended. Hundreds of thousands of other people deemed essential, such as air traffic controllers, would be ordered to work. They, too, would not be paid until Congress reached an agreement.
The nation’s capital is still feeling the effects of the shutdowns harder, but Americans beyond Washington are also facing the consequences. This is where they would notice them most immediately.
Food and medical aid
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children would run out of funding within days, putting food and medical assistance for nearly seven million mothers and children at risk. 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, as well as 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.
Commercial and tax support
Private companies that depend on the federal government, even indirectly, should 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 Ministry of Agriculture during the harvest season.
Routine inspections at various workplaces may be limited or suspended. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration should minimize safety inspections at workplaces. And during the latest 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 face problems.
The IRS will see two-thirds of its workforce furloughed, meaning delayed refunds, closed call centers and no access to the National Taxpayer Advocate, an internal watchdog that helps resolve problems. The revenue department normally receives 46,000 phone calls per day in October.
National parks and forests
Many national parks and recreation areas would close, harming surrounding communities that rely heavily on tourism revenue.
Some states, including Arizona and Utah, have said they plan to dip into public funds to keep flagship national parks open, but the majority will close as many park rangers and workers foresters are on leave.
The network of 21 Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo will use funds rolled over from the previous year and remain open until at least Oct. 7, when it announced it would reassess its financial situation.
Federal courts have enough funds to stay open for about two weeks, allowing most federal criminal cases to continue.
The Justice Department said it would reduce its prosecution of civil cases to the bare minimum until funding is restored. About 85% of Justice Department employees will continue to work, including the special prosecutor’s office, which will continue its prosecution of former President Donald J. Trump.
Environmental standards and disaster relief
With the layoff of much of the Environmental Protection Agency’s staff, the majority of the agency’s inspections at hazardous waste sites, drinking water and chemical facilities would be halted.
FEMA also said it would not be able to continue operations at the 82 major disaster sites it currently serves, including rebuilding after wildfires in Hawaii and recovery projects after hurricanes 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 situation if other disasters occur this year.
The permitting and environmental review process for many recently launched infrastructure projects could also be disrupted due to furloughs granted to the EPA and the Department of the Interior.
Student aid and loans
Even though much of the government is shut down, federal student loan payments will still be due starting in October. Interest on the majority of federal student loans began increasing again this month.
Customer service from 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 applications for federal student aid and Pell Grants should not be affected for “a few weeks.”
Air traffic controllers and Transportation Security Administration officials will continue to work without pay and try to minimize flight disruptions. But training for new air traffic control employees would be suspended because many airports are already experiencing shortages.
During the last shutdown, working conditions were so bad that TSA employees considered walking off the job, helping to speed up a deal in Congress to end the shutdown.
Passport processing, which already takes about 10 to 13 weeks, will continue but may be limited by the closure of government buildings in some localities housing passport processing offices.
Amtrak is expected to maintain regular service.
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