Gov't shutdown looms, local effects limited
by Staff Report
Apr 08, 2011 | 2379 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
At 6 p.m. today there was no word from Washington on a budget agreement that would avoid a partial shutdown of the federal government.

Barring an agreement or perhaps another temporary bill to keep the government operating, the shutdown of most of the government would begin at midnight. Many essential workers, such as mail carriers, air traffic controllers and the military, would stay on the job, but national parks would close and pay for troops and other workers could be delayed.

Locally, the Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites said the pending shutdown would affect only one location in the state. Red Top Mountain State Park and the Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site would remain open.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was preparing for the closure of all Corps-operated campgrounds and day-use parks nationwide, which includes Lake Allatoona, effective Saturday. Those operations would not become functional again until after the shutdown was lifted.

Corps parks leased to partner agencies and concessionaires will remain open, but cannot be supported by the Corps while the shutdown is in place, according to the Corp's website, www.usace.army.mil.

That may be bad news for those hoping to enjoy the exceptionally warm weekend forecast. Beginning Saturday and continuing through the end of the shutdown, if it goes into effect, no new visitors will be allowed into, or reservations accepted for, Corps recreation facilities. Campers who are on site prior to the shutdown going into effect will be required to vacate campgrounds no later than 8 p.m. Sunday, according to a press release.

"The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers understands the impact that these actions might have on the American recreating public if we are required to close our recreation areas," said Michael G. Ensch, Chief of Operations, Headquarters, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in the release. "We know that this is a time of year when many vacationing families are using or planning to use Corps recreation facilities, and we will reopen them for public use and enjoyment as quickly as possible."

Bartow County Commissioner Clarence Brown said, "The federal government shutting down won't affect local government."

All local emergency services, which are paid for by local taxpayers, will remain fully operational.

Those projected to feel the effects most are federal workers, most of whom had been told by midday whether they had been deemed essential or would be temporarily laid off if lawmakers failed to reach an agreement by the approaching deadline. In the event of a shutdown, official furlough notices would begin going out by email, by written letter or in person. Many workers would be allowed into their offices for up to four hours on Monday to finish tasks, but that would be it.

Leaders in Congress and President Barack Obama have met this week at the White House, including Thursday night.

Republicans have been seeking $40 billion in cuts, as well as several other provisions to advance the conservative agenda backed by a rank and file that includes dozens of first-termers elected with the support of tea party activists.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the two sides had reached agreement on $38 billion in spending cuts and the only hang-up was a Republican demand to cut Planned Parenthood, a federal program that provides women's health and family planning services.

But House Speaker John Boehner said there was "only one reason that we do not have an agreement as yet, and that issue is spending."

"When will the White House and when will Senate Democrats get serious about cutting federal spending?" he asked.

Boehner urged Obama to reconsider a veto threat against legislation to keep the government open for one additional week while negotiators continue working on a deal to fund federal programs through Sept. 30.

The short-term measure includes $12 billion in spending cuts and would provide enough funds to keep the Pentagon in operation through Sept. 30.

Federal courts, including the Georgia Northern District Court, Georgia Northern Bankruptcy Court and Georgia Northern Prob/Pretrial Office, all in Rome, could also be affected.

If Congress is unable to agree on the continued funding of government, the Judiciary is prepared to use non-appropriated fees to keep the courts running for up to two weeks, according to the United States Courts.

Once that funding is exhausted, however, the federal court system faces serious disruptions. Following their own contingency plans, federal courts would limit operation to essential activities. For the federal courts, this would mean limiting activities to those functions necessary and essential to continue the resolution of cases. All other personnel services not related to judicial functions would be suspended.

The jury system would operate as necessary, although payments to jurors would be deferred. Attorneys and essential support staff in federal defender offices and court-appointed counsel would continue to provide defense services as needed, but again, payments would be deferred, according to the system. Courts would determine the number of probation office staff needed to maintain service to the courts and the safety of the community.

How government services would or wouldn't be affected if there's a partial shutdown tonight:

--Benefit payments: Social Security payments would continue, and applications would still be processed. Unemployment benefits would still go out. Medicare would still pay claims for recipients, but payments to doctors and hospitals could be delayed if the shutdown were prolonged.

--Mail: Deliveries as usual (U.S. postal operations are not subsidized by tax dollars).

--Recreation: National parks around the country would be gated. The National Zoo and Smithsonian in Washington, too. The White House says a shutdown would cancel the popular National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade in the nation's capital this weekend, though organizers are hoping to go ahead.

--Taxes and loans: The IRS would not process paper returns, but the filing deadline would remain April 18 -- already delayed three days because of a local holiday in Washington. It's unclear whether taxpayer help lines would be staffed. Tax audits would be suspended. The Federal Housing Administration, which guarantees about 30 percent of home mortgages, would stop that work. Action on government-backed loans to small businesses would be suspended.

--Air travel: Air traffic controllers will stay on the job. Federal inspectors who enforce safety rules, too.

--International travel: The State Department would continue to provide emergency consular services to U.S. citizens in need. But other services, such as issuing travel visas and passports, could be delayed or stop.

--Military and public protection: Pay for U.S. troops would be delayed, and some civilian Defense Department employees would be furloughed. Military operations in the Middle East and earthquake assistance to Japan would not be interrupted. All 116 federal prisons would remain open, and criminal litigation would proceed.

--Health care: Medical research at the National Institutes of Health would be disrupted, though patients would continue to receive care. The Centers for Disease Control would respond to an outbreak.

--Work safety: Inspectors would stop workplace inspections except in cases of imminent danger.

--Dining out: Any emergencies involving food contamination still would be dealt with.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this story.