Cali Owings, Published September 30 2013
How government shutdown would be felt locallyThe effects of a government shutdown will be felt by North Dakota’s estimated 5,400 federal employees, many of whom will be furloughed immediately.
But it is business as usual for many government agencies that provide some of the most essential services citizens utilize every day.
The U.S. Postal Service will continue to deliver mail. Checks will still come for those receiving Social Security, Medicare and unemployment benefits. Security and safety functions of several U.S. agencies will be maintained, from Transportation Security Administration screenings at the airport to meat, egg and poultry inspections.
Based on reviews of federal agency contingency plans and interviews with regional officials, here’s a breakdown of what you can expect from some local and statewide federal services:
ND National Guard
The North Dakota National Guard will furlough about 40 percent of its 1,150 full-time employees. The majority are also National Guard members.
Limited functions will focus on public safety, security and service for soldiers and airmen deployed, or about to be deployed.
In the event of a natural disaster or emergency, the North Dakota National Guard will be able to respond using state funds.
Fish and Wildlife Service
The Fish and Wildlife Service will shut down more than 60 national wildlife refuge sites throughout North Dakota. It will also close fish hatcheries, ecological service stations and field offices. Some employees, like those responsible for the feeding and care of animals, are exempt from furloughs.
The Internal Revenue Service will still collect taxes, but audits and taxpayer services would be suspended. Patrons may not be able to get in-person service at the Fargo Taxpayer Assistance Center or over the phone on the IRS toll-free help line.
Federal Housing Administration
While the Federal Housing Administration will approve and underwrite new loans, those looking to buy a home with an FHA-insured loan can expect delays in closings with fewer staff available.
Depending on the length of the shutdown, these delays could affect home sellers and the overall housing market.
National Park Service
The National Park Service will close and secure all national park sites, including Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, N.D.
Two U.S. Geological Survey sites in North Dakota will also almost completely shut down. All 35 employees at the North Dakota Water Science Center, which collects a variety of water data, in Bismarck and Grand Forks will be sent home. The Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center near Jamestown will retain one of its 80 employees to perform physical building checks.
Court business for the U.S. District Court of North Dakota will carry on as normal in Bismarck and Fargo.
However, support staff in the North Dakota U.S. attorney’s office such as legal secretaries, aides and paralegals will be sent home. Reductions could affect the number of cases before the U.S. District Court of North Dakota.
Department of Homeland Security
While the Department of Homeland Security will continue most of its functions, businesses will not be able to check potential employees’ immigration status through its E-Verify program.
Food stamps and childhood nutrition initiatives that provide breakfast and lunch at schools will be maintained.
Nutritional assistance through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children will not be available. Locally, WIC of Cass County, which serves 3,200 clients, can continue to function as normal using carryover funds for about 30 days.
The passport service centers at Postal Service locations in Fargo will continue accepting and processing passport applications, but passport service could be delayed if the shutdown lasts longer than a few days.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Cali Owings at (701) 241-5599