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Federal Government Shutdown Would Affect Services Across California

The state could be left to carry the fiscal burden as a deadline looms for Congress

A shutdown of the federal government would close services across California and could force the cash-strapped state to front funding for programs without being reimbursed right away.

The U.S. House of Representatives has a deadline of midnight Friday to reach a budget compromise or a shutdown will go into effect Saturday, said Ashley Schapitl, press secretary for Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara. A shutdown can be avoided even without a decision on a final budget number, since a short-term measure could be approved to keep the government funded until it figures out the details.

If a shutdown is announced, representatives will work through the weekend.

A shutdown of a couple of days would be inconvenient, but a few weeks would force states to front all money for cost-sharing programs — including unemployment — for which they’re usually immediately reimbursed by the federal government, Schapitl said.

Capps’ district, which stretches along the Central Coast from the Monterey-San Luis Obispo County line to Oxnard, has 10,590 federal employees and 10,905 federal retirees. Schapitl said it’s unclear how many employees would be affected by the shutdown.

All national parks would be closed, Internal Revenue Service tax refunds could be delayed, payments to federal contractors would be halted and there could be delayed payments from the Department of Education. Most of the education funding is not mandatory but is subject to appropriations, Schapitl said.

Lowered staffing most likely would cause delays in processing passports, new Social Security applications and other administrative services.

However, payments to “essential” or mandated programs would continue, including Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and food stamp programs.

The U.S. Postal Service is self-sustaining off postage and mailing fees, and hasn’t been funded with federal money since the 1970s, so it would be unaffected by a shutdown.

Capps’ offices throughout the district would try to keep services available to constituents, including veteran benefits and home mortgage modifications.

“Congresswoman Capps believes there is simply no reason for a government shutdown,” Schapitl said in a statement. “We basically have a budget agreement that makes historic cuts in federal spending.  In fact, Congress has already cut over $50 billion and the level of remaining cuts put on the table by the president and Senate Democrats exceeds what Speaker (John) Boehner initially announced as his goal.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, House Republicans and Democrats are still at a stalemate in discussing billions of dollars in budget cuts for the next fiscal year.

The last government shutdown in fiscal year 1996 involved closures of national parks and monuments; suspended work on thousands of bankruptcy cases; forced delays in processing passport applications, interruptions in veteran services, and delays in processing alcohol, tobacco, firearms and explosives applications; and forced the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to cease disease surveillance, according to information sent from Capps’ office.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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