Most Iowans would feel impact of government shutdown

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If Congress fails to meet agreement on a new budget and the federal government shuts down on Friday, most Iowans will feel the impact.

A shutdown of even a few days would prevent the processing of first-time Social Security payments, veteran’s benefits and disability checks.

“Those people will be affected most because they don’t have many resources,” said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.

Federal offices, including U.S. Department of Agriculture facilities, would close.

“You know, we’re getting very close to planting season and a lot of information and stuff those (USDA) offices put out, farmers would not be able to access,” Harkin said.

Iowa taxpayers who filed paper returns by mail would have to wait for refunds.

Services affected

Some federal services that would be affected by government shutdown:

  • Tax refunds from paper returns will be delayed.
  • First-time Social Security checks won’t be processed
  • Passport applications won’t be filled
  • Government offices, including U.S. Department of Agriculture Extension Service offices, will be shut
  • Federal Home Administration-backed home mortgage loans will be held up
  • Iowans serving in the armed forces would be paid for another week, but would have to wait for Congress to approve a new budget to get their next paycheck.

Col. Greg Hapgood, spokesman for the Iowa National Guard, said only about half of the state’s Guardsmen would be working the following Monday if the government shuts down Friday.

“That will have a profound effect on our ability to serve soldiers and airmen and their families,” he said.

Hapgood said the National Guard has tried for months to prepare its employees for a possible shutdown by encouraging them to put aside money.

“What happens if you wake up one day and you don’t have a paycheck?” he asked.

The closure of the federal government and the resulting furlough of about 800,000 federal workers is threatened because the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and a Senate controlled by Democrats have failed to reach an agreement on a budget that would fund the federal government until Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.

Republicans insist on spending cuts that Democrats reject because they say they’re not based on good economics but on conservative ideology and a wish to end programs the GOP doesn’t like.

The last time the government shut down was in 1995 when “non-essential” federal workers were furloughed for five days in November and another 21 days in December into January, 1996.

The full effects of another shutdown would depend on how long it lasts.

For the first two weeks, federal courts would function much as normal by using court fees that have been collected but not spent. But after that, the chief judge of the local federal court would decide what services and cases are essential. “There will be a lot of hard decisions,” said Dick Carelli, spokesman for the federal courts. “For instance, judges will have to decide ‘how many probation officers do we keep on the payroll to protect the public?’”

Pam Tvrdy, spokeswoman for Rockwell Collins, said the company, which depends on the federal government for more than half of its business, would not be affected by a shutdown if it lasts just a few days.

“But longer than that, there would be some impact. We work with government officials and getting decisions made and planning would be difficult, resulting in a delay in programs,” she said.”

Some federal workers are considered essential and would continue. Those include the air traffic controllers and Transportation Security Administration agents at the Cedar Rapids’ airport.

The U.S. Postal Service also would continue to deliver mail and packages because since 1983 it has funded itself through the sale of stamps and services instead of congressional appropriations.

Local Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics would continue to operate, said Dale Tchida, spokesman for the Iowa City VA Health Care System.

Members of Congress will continue to work, but most of their staff won’t. Congressional staff deemed “essential personnel” will be asked to work without pay, hoping to be reimbursed when a budget is finally approved.

Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, said he plans to declare all of his staffers essential personnel. He has offices in Washington, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.

“I have to serve my constituents to the best of my abilities,” Loebsack said.

Federal government shutdowns since 1980:

  • Dec. 15, 1995 to Jan. 6, 1996: Longest government shutdown. Some government benefit checks are delayed.
  • Nov. 13-19, 1995: Partial government shutdown; nearly 800,000 workers furloughed.
  • Oct. 5-9, 1990: Columbus Day weekend shutdown when conservative Republicans initially refuse to accept a budget compromise negotiated by President George H.W. Bush that raised taxes, in violation of his “no new taxes” campaign pledge.
  • Dec. 18-20, 1987: Debate over Nicaragua’s Contra rebels ties up stopgap spending bills and results in a government shutdown. However, because the shutdown occurs over a weekend, there is little practical effect.
  • Oct. 16-18, 1986: More than half a million federal workers go home early because there technically is no money to pay them.
  • Oct. 3-5, 1984: About a half-million “non-essential” government workers, their jobs caught in temporary limbo by Congress’ failure to approve a spending bill, are sent home at midday. The shutdown follows a temporary halt earlier in the week.
  • Nov. 10-14, 1983: Money technically runs out for a variety of agencies at midnight. But because much of the federal government is closed for Veterans Day, the lapse has little practical effect.
  • Dec. 17-21, 1982: Some 300,000 government workers, their agencies technically out of money, stay on the job as Congress and President Ronald Reagan try to resolve a budget dispute.
  • Sept. 30 to Oct. 2, 1982: The government technically runs out of money when Congress fails to enact spending legislation before a Sept. 30 deadline, but no workers are furloughed before the measure is approved a day later.
  • Nov. 20-23, 1981: The government shuts down and an estimated 400,000 employees are dismissed at midday, after President Ronald Reagan vetoes an emergency spending bill. Congress then passes a short-term spending measure.

Associated Press


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