Federal Agency Shutdowns Leave Many in the Dark

October 8, 2013 in Top News, U.S. News

White House Apology for Lack of Web ServicesMost federal agency operations shutdown due to a lapse in appropriations effective Tuesday, Oct. 1. Agency services will remain idle until Congress passes a continuing resolution to resume funding the government. The budget matter is still under debate.

Political negotiations by all appearances remain at an impasse. Anticipation of the need to adjust the federal debt ceiling during the coming week has made the political environment surrounding government funding contentious.

Among the impacts of the shutdown, there has resulted a virtual online blackout of information normally available from many federal agencies. As a result, millions of Americans who utilize federal web-resources in their personal lives, business and professional work, and research needs are now denied access.

The Office of Management and Budget, the Office of Personnel Management and Budget and most other federal agencies have posted information on contingency plans related to the shutdown. Most of these contingency plans were posted several days before the new fiscal year and therefore are accurate as of the last week of September.

These contingency plans are accessible online from the OMB and provide detailed information for personnel, contractors, vendors and program-users or beneficiaries dealing with individual agencies.

Some services will continue uninterrupted. These ranked among the highest services of concern leading up to the shutdown, including:

  • Civilian security: Public servants including air traffic controllers, prison guards and border patrols will continue working.
  • Mail service: U.S. Postal Service mail delivery will continue.
  • Military: Active military will continue serving.
  • NASA: Operations such as Mission Control Support for the Space Station will continue.
  • Social Security and pensions: Social Security beneficiaries should continue to receive checks. Federal retirees who paid into separate trust funds for their pension programs should continue to receive checks.

Most other federal operations and services routinely utilized by American citizens, workers and businesses, are currently idle. They will remain so until the House of Representatives passes a continuing resolution acceptable to the Senate and the president for resumed funding of the federal budget. Among the most often queried federal services of concern are:

  • Business, loans and permits:  Applications for SBA loans and loan guarantees will be halted. Energy and transportation project permits and review will be idle. Rural community loans will be halted.
  • Consumer and environmental safety: Consumer protection programs including child product safety, financial security and hazardous waste facilities safety will be idle. EPA programs dubbed by law as “non-essential”, such as inspections of chemical facilities and drinking water systems will be idle.
  • Food for young children and aged: Federal funds to provide nutrition and meal services to seniors and young children may not be sufficient to cover all program beneficiaries if the lapse in funding continues for long.
  • Governmental information services: Economic data series will be unavailable or interrupted during the shutdown, as evidenced by unavailability of the most recent jobs report. Widely used information services such as the USDA food and nutrition data lookups will remain down.
  • Health: National Institutes of Health research activities will be on hold. Clinical trials will not accept new patients.
  • Internet: Many Federal information websites will remain down including scientific and technical information, economic and business updates, school and professional research tools, information on public facilities, events, state-local and community matters.
  • Parks: All national parks and monuments will remain closed until funding is renewed.
  • Veterans: Veterans’ compensation, pension, education, and other benefits may be cut off in the case of an extended shutdown. Call centers, hotlines and regional offices that help veterans understand their benefits will close to the public.

Currently, hundreds of thousands of federal employees in areas such as anti-terrorism, border defense, inspections and air safety are expected to continue working without pay until the current shutdown ends. Hundreds of thousands of federal employees in other areas of service closed-down will continue furloughed without pay for the foreseeable future.