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Shutdown impact: Veterans regional offices close
Wednesday - 10/9/2013, 8:13pm EDT
By The Associated Press
A government shutdown is having far-reaching consequences for some, but minimal impact on others. Mail is being delivered. Social Security and Medicare benefits continue to flow. But vacationers are being turned away from national parks and Smithsonian museums, and that's having a ripple effect on those businesses and communities that rely on tourism. Borrowers applying for a mortgage can expect delays, particularly many low-to-moderate income borrowers and first- time homebuyers. A look at how services have been affected, and sometimes not, by Congress failing to reach an agreement averting a partial government shutdown:
Federal air traffic controllers remain on the job and airport screeners continue to funnel passengers through security checkpoints. Furloughs of safety inspectors had put inspections of planes, pilots and aircraft repair stations on hold, but the Federal Aviation Administration says it is asking 800 employees - including some safety inspectors - to return to work this week. More than 2,900 inspectors had been furloughed. The FAA has also closed down its aircraft registry, preventing the makers of private planes, helicopters and business jets from buying and selling aircraft and aircraft parts. Industry officials estimate that by midmonth the registry closure will hold up the delivery of 130 aircraft valued at almost $1.5 billion. The State Department continues processing foreign applications for visas and U.S. applications for passports, since fees are collected to finance those services. Embassies and consulates overseas remain open and are providing services for U.S. citizens abroad.
Social Security and Medicare benefits continue to be paid out, but there could be delays in processing new disability applications. The Social Security Administration is also delaying the announcement of the size of next year's cost- of-living adjustment, which was supposed to come out on Oct. 16. Unemployment benefits are also still going out. The state of Arizona opted to stop welfare benefits averaging $207 a week to about 5,200 families, despite assurances from the federal officials that the state would be reimbursed.
Federal courts have been using fees and other funds to operate since the shutdown began and will continue to do so until next Tuesday. After that, the courts will run out of money and shut down all non-essential work. A limited number of workers would perform essential work, while all others would be furloughed. Each court would make a determination on what is essential and non- essential. Judges would still be able to seat jurors, but the jurors won't be paid until Congress provides funding. Court-appointed lawyers would also not get paid. Lack of funds for the Justice Department has already led to delays in some civil cases in which the department is a party. The Supreme Court opened its term Monday and says its business will go on despite the ongoing shutdown.
All national parks are closed. Grand National Canyon National Park was shut down for only the second time since it was created in 1919. The Grand Canyon averages 18,000 tourists per day in October, which has left hotels, concessionaires and tour operators losing money by the hour. In Washington, monuments along the National Mall have been closed, as have the Smithsonian museums, including the National Zoo. Among the visitor centers that have closed: the Statue of Liberty in New York, Independence Hall in Philadelphia and Alcatraz Island near San Francisco. National Wildlife Refuges have been closed off to hunters and fishermen just as hunting season was getting underway in many states. Normally, hunting would be allowed on 329 wildlife refuges and fishing allowed on 271.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will shut down most operations on Thursday. The agency that oversees safety at the nation's 100 commercial nuclear reactors had been operating at close to normal by using "carryover" funds saved from previous years. Resident inspectors will remain on the job and any immediate safety or security matters will be handled. But starting Thursday, the agency will not conduct nonemergency reactor licensing, reactor license renewal amendments, emergency preparedness exercises or reviews of design certifications. Employees would be brought out of furlough to respond to an emergency.
At the Environmental Protection Agency, the shutdown means the agency can no longer certify whether vehicles meet emissions standards, delaying some new models from reaching car lots. New pesticides and industrial chemicals are also in limbo because the EPA has halted reviews of their health and environmental effects. And the nation's environmental police are no longer checking to see if polluters are complying with agreements to reduce their pollution.