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Impact of shutdown on Butler County still unclear

Published 3:29pm Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The effects of a partial government shutdown likely won’t be immediately felt in Butler County.

The shutdown, which took effect Tuesday, came about when the Republican-led House insisted that any legislation passed to keep the government running also either defund and delay key elements of the Affordable Care Act. The Whitehouse, along with the Democratic-led Senate, refused to agree to those terms.

The result was the first government shutdown since 1996, and a lack of funding to pay federal employees or fund federal services.

Approximately 800,000 federal employees are furloughed.

Military personnel will remain on active duty, and a bill was signed by President Barack Obama late Monday that ensures that all active-duty military personnel, as well as some civilian and defense contractors, will continue to be paid during the shutdown.

“A shut down will have a real economic impact,” Obama said in a news conference Monday. “The idea of putting the American people’s hard-earned progress at risk is the height of irresponsibility.”

Locally it’s unclear what impact the shutdown could have.

Butler County Engineer Dennis McCall, who has said that the county depends on federal funds to help maintain the county’s road system, said the shutdown could impact his department.

The county recently completed its first Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program project, which was funded with Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles Bonds (GARVEE). Through the use of GARVEE bonds, Alabama has been able to access future federal dollars now in order to pay for road and bridge projects that are needed immediately.

Butler County was awarded more than $10 million through ATRIP.

The projects already scheduled as part of the program will not be affected, however, future funding may become an issue.

“Very little information is coming to us on the local level,” McCall said. “It is very unlikely that there will be any short term effects on us at the local level, however, a long term shutdown may impact future grant programs such as Community Development Block Grants.”

Greenville Police Department Chief Lonzo Ingram said the shutdown may prevent his department from placing two more resource officers in the schools.

Ingram had expected to hear Tuesday if his department would be granted Cops in Schools grant.

“We’re just waiting to hear,” Ingram said. “The last we hear we were supposed to find out (Tuesday). Now we don’t know. I hope it won’t impact that, but I’m not sure. Day to day the shutdown won’t impact us directly, but we could not be able to place additional resource officers in the schools because of the grant not being funded.”

Head Start programs, which are federally funded, could also be affected by the shutdown.

Officials with Greenville’s Head Start program were unavailable for comment Tuesday.

The shutdown will not affect mail delivery since the U.S. Postal Service receives no tax dollars for day-to-day operations. It relies on income from stamps and other postal fees to keep running.

Social Security and Medicare benefits will continue, but there could be delays in processing new disability applications. Unemployment benefits will still be paid.

Others ways the shutdown will be felt include:

 

AIR TRAVEL

Federal air traffic controllers will remain on the job and airport screeners would keep funneling passengers through security checkpoints. Federal inspectors will continue enforcing safety rules.

INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL

The State Department will continue processing foreign applications for visas and U.S. applications for passports, since fees are collected to finance those services. Embassies and consulates overseas would continue to provide services to American citizens.

FEDERAL COURTS

Federal courts would continue operating normally for about 10 business days after the start of a shutdown, roughly until the middle of October. If the shutdown continues, the judiciary would have to begin furloughs of employees whose work is not considered essential. But cases would continue to be heard.

RECREATION

All national parks will be closed.

FOOD SAFETY

The Food and Drug Administration will handle high-risk recalls, but will suspend most routine safety inspections. Federal meat inspections would be expected to proceed as usual.

FOOD ASSISTANCE

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, could shut down. The program provides supplemental food, health care referrals and nutrition education for pregnant women, mothers and their children.

School lunches and breakfasts would continue to be served, and food stamps, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, would continue to be distributed. But several smaller feeding programs would not have the money to operate.

TAXES

Americans would still have to pay their taxes and file federal tax returns, but the Internal Revenue Service says it will suspend all audits. The IRS says taxpayer services, including toll-free help lines, will be shut as well.

LOANS

Many low-to-moderate incomes borrowers and first-time homebuyers seeking government-insured mortgages could face delays. The Federal Housing Administration, which guarantees about 30 percent of home mortgages, will still approve single-family loans, but with delays. Multi-family mortgage approvals could be suspended. Action on government-backed loans to small businesses will be suspended.

 

Information included from an Associated Press report.

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