How a shutdown of the federal government could affect Akron-area residents:
Social Security: Checks are likely to still get processed; payments were sent during the last shutdown in 1995-1996. Social Security is a mandatory program, meaning the money for payments aren’t subject to appropriations. An operation plan in the event of a shutdown dated 2011 says Social Security Administration field offices would continue to handle applications for benefits and requests for appeals, among other activities. Activities that would be suspended under the plan include processing requests for original and replacement cards and benefit verifications.
Medicare/Medicaid: U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., says on his website that benefits for this program, like Social Security, “are also exempt from the shutdown,” and that enrollees should not see “any disruption.” He said new applications could be delayed.
Unemployment: U.S. Rep. Holt also says on his website that federal funds that help states pay the costs of their unemployment programs could be affected depending on the length of the shutdown.
Food inspections: It is expected that the nation’s estimated 9,000 food safety inspectors who work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service would remain on the job. According to the operation plan in the event of a shutdown dated 2011, meat, poultry and egg inspections would continue as their jobs are considered “essential to ensure continued public health and food safety, including the safe use of food and drugs.”
Air travel: Air traffic controllers and Transportation Security Administration officers would be deemed essential and remain on the job. Airports do not expect significant impact.
Passports/immigration: Foreigners’ applications for visas were not processed during the last shutdown, in 1995-96. Passports went unprocessed, cutting into travel industry revenues. Emergency passports would still be processed, according to some news reports. Embassies will stay open to help American citizens.
Federal Reserve: The Federal Reserve has independent sources of funding, and as such would stay open.
Military/veterans services: While Veterans Affairs hospitals would remain, the shutdown of 1995-96 saw delays in some benefits, according to news reports. Various congressional members this month asked President Barack Obama to deem certain VA employees “essential” to prevent delays in benefits and other services.
Postal service: Mail would be delivered. The U.S. Post Office is an independent agency with its own sources of income, and, like other agencies with nongovernment funding, the agency stays open during shutdowns.
Federal courthouse: Judge Solomon Oliver Jr., chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, said the area’s federal court system could function for probably two weeks, based on fees and other funds collected over time. “Beyond two weeks, those funds probably would be exhausted,” Oliver said. “So if there’s any shutdown for a substantial period of time, it’s going to be devastating to the courts and, I’m sure, all of the governmental agencies.”
Cuyahoga Valley National Park: All national parks presumably would be closed. They were closed during the last shutdown in 1995-96. A National Park Service shutdown contingency plan dating to 2011 calls for locking or securing of any government property and facilities, when possible, including parking lots, bathrooms and visitor facilities. Special events must be canceled. The plan says parks with through roads should not attempt to close them.
Food banks: Dan Flowers, chief executive of the Akron-Canton Foodbank, said government cuts could mean less food on people’s tables. “With cuts to government programs, demand from our clients will increase and, absent increased support from the local community, we would be forced to give out less food to more people,” he said. “What we do in the light of these cuts is entirely dependent on local resources.”
Flood insurance: According to the House Financial Services Committee, the National Flood Insurance Program would continue to pay claims and sell policies in the event of a shutdown. Responses to day-to-day questions would be curtailed due to only essential personnel being on the job.
Akron city funding: The city is concerned about whether payments it receives from the IRS to help defray interest costs on its bonds could be delayed. Akron was approved for Build America Bonds and Qualified Construction bonds through the federal stimulus program. The IRS wires the city payments twice a year before the interest payments are due. Stephanie York, a city spokeswoman, said Akron has “seen some evidence that the IRS would have some operations impacted, but it’s not clear whether the subsidy program would be impacted.”
Contributing to this report were Beacon Journal staff writers Cheryl Powell, Jim Mackinnon, Betty Lin-Fisher, Katie Byard, Kathy Antoniotti, Ed Meyer, Stephanie Warsmith, Lisa Abraham and Dave Scott.