A federal shutdown would hit home

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Northeast Mississippi will feel the pinch of a government shutdown if Congress can’t agree on the nation’s budget by midnight tonight in Washington.
Unless you’re a federal employee, though, you may not notice much at first except closed offices.
Federal courts will stay open, at least while they have operating funds. The Post Office will be open because it’s not dependent on government revenues. But the IRS will close – meaning that, unless it was filed electronically, the refund check will have to wait.
Social Security checks will go out.
The Natchez Trace Parkway, which is a national park, also would remain open – but only the road. Its visitors centers would shut down, as would its administrative offices, parks, campgrounds and picnic areas, according to parkway Superintendent Cam Sholley.
“Obviously, we’re hopeful that we can avoid a shutdown, but we’re planning for it right now in case it happens,” Sholley said.
A skeleton crew of law-enforcement staff, including rangers, would continue patrolling the parkway. But some 130-150 other employees would be sent home, Sholley said. Also affected would be numerous contractors currently working for the parkway on a variety of jobs.
Delays or halts also are likely for federal-grant funded state programs, such as higher education, research and law enforcement training.
A government shutdown probably would stop federally funded project work on highways and roads rather quickly, Mississippi Department of Transportation District Engineer Bill Jamieson said Thursday.
Jamieson said projects would run out of money because most depend on state funds spent first, followed by reimbursement from federal sources. The state cannot sustain the work without the reimbursement, Jamieson explained.
Projects like work on cable median barriers on U.S. Highways 78 and 82 would be affected, Jamieson said. The shutdown also would stop federally funded overlay projects.
Work that’s state funded would continue.
Nationwide, about 800,000 federal employees would be furloughed during the shutdown. Only those deemed critical to the protection of life and property would continue working, and they’d be paid retroactively after government gears up again.
Those sent home also could get paid retroactively, but only with congressional and presidential approval.
Still paid during the shutdown, though, would be members of Congress and President Barack Obama.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@journalinc.com. Patsy Brumfield and Joe Rutherford also contributed to this story.