By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – Despite the federal government shutting down early this morning because of congressional gridlock, the Post Office will continue delivering mail and retirees should still expect Social Security checks.
But don’t expect to use any of the restrooms along the 444-mile Natchez Trace Parkway. You’re also out of luck if you need a passport in a hurry.
Without Congress agreeing on a bill to fund the federal government by today, hundreds of thousands of federal employees face furloughs. In Mississippi, that significantly impacts the 24,700 federal employees, about 2 percent of the state’s total workforce, Bureau of Labor Statistics show for August.
Threats of a federal government shutdown had Congressional staff members in Washington, D.C. fielding calls from people worried about government services. In Mississippi, some services might have to wait but those related to national security, benefit payments, medical care, transportation safety, border surveillance, care of prisoners and other services will continue.
Jessica Jacobsen, a spokeswoman for the Department of VeteransAffairs, said Monday that she hoped elected officials could reach an agreement to avoid a government shutdown.
However, she said a shutdown wouldn’t impact VA medical centers including the G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery VA Medical Center in Jackson and other hospitals, clinics and other health services.
As for veterans benefits, claims processing and payments will continue through late October.
“In the event of a prolonged shutdown, claims processing and payments in these programs will be suspended when funding runs out,” Jacobsen said.
Federal courts will continue to operate in the state in the short term. However, the federal courts may close around Oct. 15 if the federal government remains shut down.
The longest period of a government shutdown was 21 days, from Dec. 16, 1995 to Jan. 6, 1996.
Natchez Trace Superintendent Dale Wilkerson said limited staff at national parks won’t mean people should consider trespassing or otherwise breaking laws on the federal land.
While visitor centers will not open, law enforcement will continue to patrol.
“Our primary focus will be on protecting the resources in the park and making sure the public still using the parkway is safe,” Wilkerson said. “We want to make sure people are obeying the law.”
Daily Journal reporter Patsy Brumfield contributed to this story.