Thousands of Washingtonians Affected by Government Shutdown
The federal government has begun a partial shutdown after congressional Republicans demanded changes in the nation’s health care law as the price for essential federal funding and President Barack Obama and Democrats refused.
Here’s a look at how services in Washington state are likely to be affected, beginning Tuesday.
HEALTH CARE OVERHAUL
In spite of the fact that funding of the health care law is at the center of the budget battle in Congress, implementation of key parts of the law begin Tuesday regardless of any shutdown. Open enrollment begins Tuesday, and consumers will be able to start purchasing health plans that would take effect on Jan. 1.
Deliveries will continue as usual. The U.S. Postal Service relies on income from stamps and other postal fees to keep running and receives no tax dollars for day-to-day operations.
State Department of Health spokesman Tim Church said that the agency would be able to continue to provide the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, for nine days after a shutdown. After that, the program, which provides checks for supplemental food, health care referrals and nutrition education for pregnant women, mothers and their young children, would shut down. About 195,000 people a month are served under the program.
All national parks would be closed, as well as national monuments like Mount St. Helens, and Forest Service ranger stations would be closed. Visitors using overnight campgrounds or other park facilities would be given 48 hours to make alternate arrangements and leave the park.
The Employment Security Department said that it will continue paying unemployment benefits through this week, but said that it is uncertain whether officials would be able to maintain that if a federal shutdown lasted until next week.
Full-time active guardsmen will not be furloughed, but roughly 1,000 federal technicians, including vehicle and aircraft maintenance workers, computer technicians and human resources personnel would be furloughed starting Tuesday, according to Karina Shagren, spokeswoman for the state Department of the Military. Shagren said employees have been told to come in on Tuesday to receive further instructions. The governor would still be able to activate furloughed employees in case of an emergency that required him to call up the National Guard.
Current highway projects aren’t at immediate risk, Department of Transportation spokesman Lars Erickson said, but if a shutdown lasted for more than a month, it could hold up permitting on some projects, potentially causing delays.