Functioning As Usual

Monday, October 7, 2013

"Our city will function as usual", said Trumann Mayor Sheila Walters when asked what the government shutdown means for local citizens.

At 12:01 a.m. October 1, 2013 the United States Congress failed to pass legislation to prevent a shutdown. The long-running dispute over President Barack Obama's health care law forced about 800,000 federal workers off the job and suspended most non-essential federal programs and services.

Agencies like NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency will be all but shuttered. People classified as essential government employees - such as air traffic controllers, Border Patrol agents and most food inspectors - will continue to work.

National parks, museums along the Washington Mall and the U.S. Capitol Visitor's Center were closed ruining vacations for thousands of people from all over the world. Some vacationers from Arkansas like one family from Mountain Home said looking at Mount Rushmore from the road is just not the same. These closures will affect all businesses related to tourism close to the National Parks.

What precisely will happen in a government shutdown is unknown. Ultimately, the White House will decide which operations are "essential" for protecting life or preserving property, and which operations can be shuttered. There have been several funding lapses since the 1980s, including a three-week standoff which stretched from December1995 into January 1996.

Agencies like NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency will be all but shuttered. People classified as essential government employees - such as air traffic controllers, Border Patrol agents and most food inspectors - will continue to work.

The health care law itself was unaffected as enrollment opened Tuesday for millions of people shopping for medical insurance.

Not everything stops during a government shutdown. The major operations of the military are normally unaffected, although some defense employees may be furloughed if their jobs are not classified as essential. The Postal Service, because it is funded through an independent system, would also keep delivering mail.

The military will be paid under legislation freshly signed by Obama, but paychecks for other federal workers will be withheld until the impasse is broken. Federal workers were told to report to their jobs for a half-day but to perform only shutdown tasks like changing email greetings and closing down agencies' Internet sites.

The self-funded Postal Service will continue to operate and the government will continue to pay Social Security benefits and Medicare and Medicaid fees to doctors on time. The benefits are guaranteed by law, and aren't subject to yearly funding by Congress. But the administrative costs of the program are paid by the annual budget.

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