Shutdown impacts local programs

Vets, farmers, families, small businesses among those affected

Pinnacles is one of the many parks affected by the government shutdown.

As the federal government shutdown entered its third week with no end in sight, local farmers and home buyers were already feeling the pinch. If the shutdown continues, a wider range of services will be affected, say Congressional staffers.

If you are getting ready to prepare your 2018 federal tax return, the Internal Revenue Service said it was prepared to process returns and refunds at the end of the month.

If you are one of approximately 39,000 federal employees in California who are not getting paid, you may still have to go to work.

If you are worried about food stamps, there is only enough money to fund the program through January.

The staff of Congressman Jimmy Panetta, whose 20th District includes San Benito County and parts of Gilroy, prepared a report for the Free Lance as of Jan. 8, the date of President Trump’s televised address to the nation.

Here is a summary of the shutdown impact, according to Panetta’s staff:

The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP, has enough funding to last through the month. Senior administration officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture said last week they think the program has enough money for January but not enough to cover all benefits in February, a scenario that could lead to a major cutback in benefits for millions, but declined any further public comment.

As flu season reaches its peak, the Centers for Disease Control are not shut down, but the Food and Drug Administration—which is in the midst of a hunt in the Central Coast for sources of romaine lettuce contamination— is partially closed. Calls to the FDA communications office this week went to voicemail.

The FDA cannot accept any regulatory submissions and cannot support many routine regulatory and compliance activities. This includes some medical product, animal drug, and most food-related activities. The FDA also cannot conduct routine establishment inspections, which could prevent the finding and correction of violations, especially for food safety.

Pinnacles is closed

All services for visitors to National Park Service sites, including Pinnacles National Park in San Benito County—its visitors’ center, interpretative programs, and restrooms—have been suspended.

The Farm Service Agency, the agency facilitating trade aid payments says that if your payment already processed, you’ll get the payment. The agency can’t take new applications, however,  since local FSA offices are closed.

Loan applications to small businesses, farmers and non-profits could experience serious delays.

Federal Housing Administration (FHA) will see significant delays in loan processing and approvals.

Market Facilitation Program payments for farm producers that have already certified production with the Farm Service Agency will continue, but registration for the program ends on Jan. 15. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue will determine if the deadline should be extended. You do not need to be finished with harvest to sign up. Farmers have until May 1, 2019, to certify production.

A shutdown beyond January would cause the Food and Nutrition Service to reduce benefits by about 40 percent to almost 40 million individuals and families across the country who are dependent on SNAP.

Immigration courts are closed, exacerbating the immigration case backlog in San Francisco as court cases are postponed.

The Farm Service Agency in Monterey/Santa Cruz Counties is closed.

FHA loans stalled

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) has stopped processing loans and mortgage approvals, putting families trying to buy a new home or refinance an FHA-insured mortgage into financial limbo. In addition, HUD’s Real Estate Assessment Center is not conducting inspections of units to ensure housing is decent, safe and sanitary. Section 8 Housing is not getting funding.

Walk-in taxpayer assistance centers and all taxpayer customer service, which serves approximately 2.5 million citizens monthly, is unavailable during the shutdown.

The Small Business Administration has completely halted its role in the federal contracting process, interfering with projects government-wide. The SBA has also stopped approving loan assistance and guarantee applications from commercial banks and small businesses, blocking access to federally assisted loans for many small businesses.

Businesses have lost access to the Department of Homeland Security’s E-Verify program, which is intended to allow business owners to comply with federal law and determine the immigration status of employees they hire.

Nearly all Securities and Exchange Commission employees are furloughed, limiting the agency’s activities to process and approve filings. A prolonged shutdown will require companies to delay mergers, IPOs and other actions, hindering economic activity.

Most services provided by the Federal Trade Commission are suspended under the shutdown, including the National Do Not Call Registry (for consumers and telemarketers), consumer complaint systems and identity theft reporting, as well as law enforcement access to FTC’s consumer complaints. In addition, the FTC has suspended most investigations and litigation under the shutdown.

No payments to crime victims

The Department of Justice’s civil litigation efforts have stopped, and payments to crime victims have been put on hold. Training for Department of Justice employees, even for those still working despite the shutdown, is canceled. Department of Justice programs to train state and local law enforcement officers and officials have also been canceled.

The Environmental Protection Agency has halted inspections at drinking water systems, hazardous waste management and chemical facilities.

More than 39,000 employees in California have not received any pay since Dec. 22, when the shutdown began. Nationwide, 380,000 federal workers are furloughed, and 420,000 employees are working without pay.

Nearly one-third of all federal employees are veterans. Impacted employees with critical safety, security and emergency management missions include FBI agents, U.S. marshals, TSA employees, Coast Guard employees and Forest Service firefighters.

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