What to expect locally after government shutdown


In a rare weekend session at the Capitol, the House of Representatives works into the night, Sept. 28, 2013, in Washington, to pass a bill to fund the government. Locked in a deepening struggle with President Barack Obama, House Republicans on Saturday demanded a one-year delay in major parts of the nation's new health care law and permanent repeal of a tax on medical devices as the price for preventing a partial government shutdown threatened for early Tuesday. (The Associated Press)

Published: Monday, September 30, 2013 at 10:38 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, September 30, 2013 at 11:04 p.m.

Good news for people facing tax audits: Because of the government shutdown, all Internal Revenue Service audit activities have been suspended.

Bad news for people waiting for a tax refund: Keep waiting, because that check could be delayed.

And if you were planning to go to the IRS help center downtown, forget it. It will be closed after the shutdown, along with the IRS toll-free help numbers.

Delays and minor inconveniences are what Gainesville residents most likely can expect with the federal shutdown, which is forcing 800,000 to 1 million “nonessential” federal workers to stay home until the federal budget is approved.

Social Security and Medicare checks will continue to be issued, but it might take longer to get them. And people applying for new disability benefits could see delays.

You still can apply for a first-time Federal Housing Authority or Veterans Administration home loan, but processing it might take longer than usual.

Even the federal jobs report due Friday could be delayed.

Otherwise, life should be fairly routine for people who depend on essential federal services.

“We're open as usual,” said Heather Frebe, public affairs director for The North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System. The VA has advanced appropriations through 2014, Frebe said, so all of its hospitals, clinics and other health services in 31 Florida counties and 19 in Georgia will be available through the shutdown.

If the shutdown lasts into late October, however, the 3.6 million veterans who depend on VA benefits for rent, food and living expenses could find themselves in trouble. The Department of Veterans Affairs said it will run out of money for benefits by the end of the month.

Gainesville Regional Airport will continue to operate as usual, spokeswoman Laura Aguiar said, after checking with the Transportation Security Administration manager and the Federal Aviation Administration to confirm that airport screeners and air traffic controllers would remain on the job.

“They are all essential employees, so there will be no change,” Aguiar said. “It'll be a regular day at work.”

Other federal functions that should continue as usual: The post office will remain open, and people will continue to get their mail delivered. Food stamps and unemployment benefits will continue to be distributed, and school meal programs will continue.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children could shut down, however.

Also, don't plan on going to Castillo de San Marcos or Fort Matanzas. The National Park Service will be closed for the duration of the government shutdown.

And if you're planning to leave the country, better apply for a passport while the State Department still has the money.

Some federal agencies have enough money to last through mid-October and then will have to reassess their situation.

For example, the federal courts will continue to operate as normal for the next two weeks, said Jessica Lyublanovits, Clerk of the Court for the U.S. Courts Northern District of Florida.

“Our administrative office has funds to enable us to keep the courts open for 10 business days beyond a government shutdown,” she said.

If the shutdown lasts beyond Oct. 15, the judiciary will have to review its situation, a notice posted on the U.S. Courts website said. “All proceedings and deadlines remain in effect as scheduled, unless otherwise advised,” the notice said.

The shutdown also will impact the University of Florida's federally sponsored research. The Office of Research said the shutdown will interrupt activities involving federal agencies and is keeping tabs on each agency's contingency plan.

Grant and contract work should continue, and the university can support continued work on sponsored projects for at least two months, David Norton, vice president for research, said in an administrative memo released Monday afternoon.

“Unless provided a Stop Work order or other such notification, work and spending on awards already provided to the university should continue without interruption,” Norton said.

Norton also said that proposal deadlines for the National Institutes of Health appear to remain valid, and Grants.gov will remain operational to accept applications. However, he said, the system will delay processing until government functions return to normal.

“Most federal employees responsible for grant and contract administration will not be working,” Norton said, and no new awards will be issued.

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