The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

October 2, 2013

Trickle down effect? Government shutdown closes some local offices

By CRISTIN REECE
Palestine Herald-Press

PALESTINE — Effects of the federal government’s shut-down are already being felt — and not only by the estimated one million federal employees who were furloughed on Tuesday — and closer to home than some might assume.

The local branches of the U.S Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service have closed for the duration, but Palestine’s Social Security office and the county’s federal courts, are reporting it’s still business as usual for their offices.

“This U.S. Department of Agriculture office is currently closed, due to the lapse in federal government funding,” a sign posted Tuesday on one of two doors to the local USDA office on Lacy Street states. “This office will reopen once Congress restores funding.”

The sign on the other door simply states, “Due to the Federal Government [sic] shutdown, this office is closed. We regret any inconvenience.”

The USDA’s website posted this message, “Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available. After funding has been restored, please allow some time for this website to become available again. To view U.S. Department of Agriculture Agency Contingency plans, visit: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/contingency-plans.”

The website, www.usa.gov — which includes a notice about the shut-down as well — posted what federal services will continue through the shut-down:

• Social Security beneficiaries will continue receiving checks.

• The U.S. Postal Service will keep delivering mail.

• Active military will continue serving.

• Air traffic controllers, prison guards, and border patrol agents will remain on the job.

• NASA Mission Control will continue supporting astronauts serving on the Space Station.

The federal website states all personnel not furloughed by the shut-down will continue to work without pay for the duration of the shut-down while “hundreds of thousands of additional federal workers will be immediately and indefinitely furloughed without pay.”

“What I’m hearing from my constituents at home is if this is the only way to stop the runaway train called the federal government, then we’re willing to try it,” Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, stated in an article published at www.reuters.com.

Texas Department of Transportation officials said Tuesday TxDOT has no current projects in Anderson County that are affected by the shut-down, though permits and reviews for planned energy and transportation projects have stopped, and loans to rural communities have been halted.

The shut-down also immediately cause the closure of many federal and national parks, museums and monuments, including the Smithsonian, the Statute of Liberty and the Davy Crockett National Forest.

“Due to the lapse in federal government funding, the U.S. Forest Service, as with other federal agencies, is closed with the exception of certain essential services,” the Forest Service’s website states. “However, we will attempt to make timely updates about public health and safety on these web pages as appropriate. We sincerely regret this inconvenience.”

The standoff did not prevent the start of enrollment in health insurance marketplaces, which kicked off Tuesday as well.

According to political pundits, the shut-down is the result of the House of Representatives trying to block the Affordable Care Act by tying continued government funding to measures that would undermine it. But the Senate continues to reject those efforts.

This isn’t the first time members of the federal government have caused the nation to shut down.

A standoff in 2001, over the debt ceiling, pummeled consumer confidence and prompted the first-ever downgrade of the nation’s credit rating. Similar shutdowns occurred in 1995 and 1996 as well. Much of the federal government was closed for five days in November 1995 and then from mid-December 1995 to early January 1996 when elected officials couldn’t agree on budget issues at that time.