Once government shutdowns started becoming somewhat of a regular occurrence (there have been 17 shutdowns since 1977), somewhere a group of people in suits decided to make calls on what they consider “essential” and “non-essential” federal government services. Some make a whole lot more sense than others. For instance, the IRS isn’t cutting anyone any slack on tax return deadlines, but they won’t issue any tax refunds — but it’s a safe bet that everyone is affected in some way by the standstill.
[Find CityBeat's entire collection of Shut It Down 2013 coverage here.]
Cincinnati employs somewhere around 22,000 federal workers, and we rely on them for kind of a lot. Depending on how much longer the shutdown lasts and how quickly funds shrivel up, some of Cincinnati’s neediest — veterans, low-income mothers, preschoolers — could be deprived indefinitely of decidedly “essential” federal government services. Here’s a list of the agencies we’ve compiled and how the stalls might affect you:
CDC Flu Program
They’re not running their seasonal flu program right now — and they’re operating on a “significantly reduced capacity to respond to outbreak investigations"— so let’s all hope really hard that that the zombie rabies virus doesn’t start popping up until after the shutdown.
Colleges and Universities
Anything beyond a delay of one week (we’re getting there) would “severely curtail the cash flow of school districts, colleges and universities and vocational rehabilitation agencies that depend on the Department’s funds to support services.” MB Reilly, associate director of Public Relations for the University of Cincinnati, says that UC’s largest sources of federal funding are federal research grants and student financial aid, both of which have already been secured for this fall academic term, which means there should be no short-term effects for the school right now.
Cincinnati’s U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio stays open and will continue to hear and decide cases.
Federal Housing Administration
The FHA won’t approve or underwrite any new loans during the shutdown, and action on government-backed loans for small businesses will also be suspended.
They’re still handing “limited” activities deemed vital, like high-risk recalls and civil and criminal investigations, but they’re ceasing routine health inspections and some compliance and enforcement activities.
Apparently governmental transparency is deemed “non-essential” during a government shutdown; the FOIA office isn’t processing any informational requests during the shutdown.
No background checks being conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives means no gun permits, ergo no new (legal) gun sales.
This federally funded preschool education provider works with low-income families to provide both educational and health services for young children. Their programs all across Hamilton County are still operating, but if the shutdown continues for several more weeks to a month, they say their programs could be affected. Some programs in other states were forced to shut down immediately because their grants expired.
You can’t refinance your mortgage right now; you can still apply for a government-backed loan to get a mortgage, but the IRS isn’t verifying tax returns or Social Security numbers, so that effectively brings the application process to a grinding halt.
Still collecting taxes, but not sending out tax refunds and there’s no live phone customer service (was there ever?!?!). If you have a tax return due by Oct. 15, you still have to meet that deadline. If you’re being audited, you get a free pass until the shutdown’s over.
National Weather Service
Some weather service employees are still working, but they’re not being paid.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
OSHA has furloughed more than 90 percent of its inspectors, so they’re only attending to the most serious issues like workplace fatalities and emergencies. Still, if that happens, you won’t get a live person on the phone; you’ll leave a message and get a call back later.
Halting “non-essential” drinking water systems and chemical facilities inspections.
Mail delivery won’t be affected because the U.S. Postal Service doesn’t receive any tax dollars for everyday operations — they’re funded independently.
Small Business Loans
You and your small business are SOL unless you experience an absolute catastrophe; the Small Business Administration is only continuing the disaster loan program and other disaster investigation activities during the shutdown.
Students with Federal Loans
The Department of Education has said that the 14 million students that receive direct federal student loans and Pell grants will continue to receive their payments “dependent on the length of the lapse.”
Veterans’ hospitals are staying open and existing benefits will continue to be provided, although a veteran looking to apply for first-time benefits will have to wait until post-shutdown. The Department of Veteran Affairs has said that if the shutdown lasts for more than two or three weeks, it might run out of funds to pay disability claims and pensions.
Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children
WIC has enough funding to operate into the second week of November, according to the Ohio Health Department. There are more than 260,000 WIC participants in the state of Ohio that depend on the program for support services and healthy foods for mothers with small children and pregnant women in need.