Shutdown effects trickle down to the Hi-Line
Local gov’ts not directly impacted, some fed agencies closing doors
October 1, 2013
The federal government shutting down due to lack of a congressional appropriation won’t be affecting local government, at least at first.
But some local offices will be closed down, including some on Montana Indian reservations. The impact of that depends on how long the shutdown lasts, officials say.
“We’re part of the federal government as well … ,” Cliff Hall, U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs superintendent at the Fort Belknap Agency said this morning. “We’re shutting everything down.”
Les Rispens, Hill County executive director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency, said the same is true for the FSA and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Employees there were told to come in today to see if a resolution to keep government running had passed, and, if not, begin securing the facility, changing telephone messages, backing up and shutting down computers and the like.
“Then we’ll lock the doors and leave,” Rispens said.
When the Havre Daily News tried to confirm some local information using the Internet, the FSA website read, “Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available. We sincerely regret this inconvenience. After funding has been restored, please allow some time for this website to become available again.”
A representative of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Havre called the Havre Daily News this morning to put a hold on its newspaper subscription, saying no one would be in the office to read it.
For the first time since 1995, Congress has failed to pass any provision to fund government operations for the fiscal year, starting today. The last funding bill — a stopgap measure passed in March — expired Monday.
The issue came down to demands on both sides, with the Republican-controlled House saying it would not pass a continuing resolution without attaching some measure to delay or defund the implementation of the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare, for which the online insurance exchanges went live today, despite the shutdown — and the Democrats in the Senate and President Barack Obama refusing to attach measures to a funding bill.
The local governments should not see any impact, at least at first, officials say.
“As far as I know, it doesn’t affect us at all,” Hill County Commissioner Jeff LaVoi said Monday. “We’ll be here.”
Havre Mayor Tim Solomon said the same is true for city governments — depending on how long the shutdown lasts. If funding for federal agencies is delayed long enough, that could change, he said.
“Then they might start seeing things there, but right now, nothing directly to the city,” he said.
Exactly what still will operate and what will not is not completely clear. Without funding, most agencies will put their personnel on furlough, but some agencies, and some positions within other agencies, are what is defined as “excepted.” That means the agencies, and some positions within other agencies, continue to operate even without a budget or continuing resolution.
One of those is the U.S. Postal Service, which is self-funded and does not rely on federal appropriations.
Another is the Federal Aviation Administration, and the Transportation Security Administration — the Havre City-County Airport and other airports should not, at least at first, see any impact.
Law enforcement and customs services also are apparently excepted, so at least some federal agents dealing with the border and the ports of entry are likely to stay on duty.
Monday, the president signed into law a provision Congress passed guaranteeing active-duty military personnel, who must stay on duty, will receive their pay.
For some other excepted positions, while they likely will get paid, when they get their checks could be delayed.
And the impact of other agencies will likely depend on how long the shutdown lasts.
Rispens said October is the month that FSA sends most of its Conservation Reserve Program and Direct and Countercyclical Program payments out to farmers. That will be delayed for as long as the FSA employees are on furlough, he said.
“We don’t expect the impact to be dramatic to the extent that we are shut down,” he said. “It will simply delay our period of payments for the same period of time.
“If it were a longer shutdown, it could start to have an impact on people whose bankers are expecting to see those payments this month,” Rispens added.