After several unsuccessful attempts to figure out a funding agreement that satisfies Republicans, Democrats and the president — with Trump’s border wall at the heart of the ongoing conflict — the government is now over a week into a partial shutdown, placing hundreds of thousands of employees on furlough and halting a myriad of services.
The showdown in Washington over border security and its resulting partial government shutdown impacts about 15 percent of the total federal workforce. Because many federal agencies have already been funded through September 2019, only about a quarter of the government is affected, unlike previous wholesale shutdowns in January 2018 and October 2013.
Since about three-quarters of the government is already funded by existing bills, services like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will remain intact. All three of these programs fall under “mandatory spending,” though new applicants for these programs might face a wait.
The same goes for many services offered for veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs has already secured its funding, so veteran hospitals like the VA Hospital in Modesto will maintain routine operations.
According to Stanislaus County Veteran Services Representative Robert Daniel, veteran disability pay and GI Bill benefits are funded by their own legislation separate from the annual appropriations bills, so those benefits for veterans will also remain consistent during the shutdown. However, those applying for benefits for the first time will have trouble obtaining their DD-214 forms and other documents needed to enroll, as well as those looking to utilize specific benefits, like burial and funeral expenses.
“A lot of our benefits and services are required to use that form, so as it would sit, they wouldn’t be able to use that benefit. Until the shutdown ends, they would just be waiting,” Daniel said. “We can start and initiate the process for them but right now we can’t do anything further.”
Turlock’s Post Office will continue to operate normally, as the USPS is funded by an independent source of revenue. People will still be able to get food stamps and subsidized lunches, also, but it depends on how long the shutdown lasts.
“There may be a lapse in funding for the federal government, but that will not relieve USDA of its responsibilities for safeguarding life and property through the critical services we provide,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said. “Our employees work hard every day to benefit our customers and the farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers who depend on our programs. During a shutdown, we will leverage our existing resources as best we can to continue to provide the top-notch service people expect.”
USDA services that will continue regardless of the shutdown’s status include meat, poultry and processed egg inspection services, grain and other commodity inspection and weighing and grading, inspections for import and export activities, among other services.
Services that will be discontinued come Jan. 1 include the provision of new rural development loans and grants for housing, community facilities, utilities and businesses, services within the U.S. National Forest System, new timber sales, agricultural economic and statistical reports and projections and assistance for the control of some plant and animal pests and diseases, to name a few. Mandatory Audits will also be suspended and may not be completed and released on the date mandated by law.
The Internal Revenue Service will also be affected by the partial shutdown just in time for tax season. Under its current shutdown guidance, 88 percent of the IRS’ total workforce has been furloughed, and many will have to report to work without pay as the shutdown continues into January.
Because of this, the upcoming tax filing season may face a delayed opening. Workers were in the process of being trained about the massive changes to the tax code — a process interrupted by the shutdown. The shutdown has increased the chances of a delayed or modified filing season, which also happened in December 2013 when the IRS delayed the start of the 2014 tax filing season following a 16-day government shutdown in October.
Like the IRS, the National Park service has also furloughed many of its employees as a result of the shutdown. Parks across the country have each handled the shutdown differently, with some remaining open, some closing off visitor services but allowing guests to enter the park and others closing completely.
At Yosemite National Park, all roads entering the park are open. Entrance stations are unstaffed but open, while visitor centers and the Yosemite Museum are closed. Lodging, tours, restaurants, stores, the Yosemite Valley shuttle system and gas stations — and their bathrooms — are still up and running, though restrooms not located near these concession facilities are closed. All campgrounds remain open as well, as do hiking trails.