By Lynne Bronstein
October 1, 2013 marked the first day of a federal government shutdown in which more than 800,000 federal workers were forced into unpaid furloughs and many services were closed. It is the first such federal shutdown in 17 years.
The shutdown is the result of a standoff in Congress because of attempts by Republicans to block President Barack Obama’s healthcare law. On Monday, September 30, the House and Senate wrangled for hours over several bills, with the Senate voting down a House bill that would have funded government agencies for six weeks but delayed portions of the “Obamacare” Affordable Healthcare bill for a year.
A last-minute attempt by the House to name negotiators to work out differences in a House-Senate conference was rejected by the Senate in the early hours of October 1.
A bill was passed, and signed by Obama late Monday night, which would ensure that members of the military would continue to be paid during the shutdown.
Despite the shutdown, a major element of the health plan, in which uninsured consumers can buy health insurance online, kicked in on October 1 and is proceeding as usual.
“That funding is already in place. You can’t shut it down” said President Obama during a White House briefing.
The shutdown means that what are termed “non-essential” government services are unavailable. These include meal service to seniors and young children; call centers, hotlines and regional offices that help veterans understand their benefits; non-essential inspections of chemical facilities and drinking water systems, and loans to rural communities.
All national parks and monuments are closed.
Some services will still be available. Social Security beneficiaries will continue receiving checks; the U.S. Postal Service will keep delivering mail; active military will continue serving; air traffic controllers, prison guards and border patrol agents will remain on the job, and NASA Mission Control will continue supporting astronauts serving on the Space Station. However, the federal employees who work at these services will be working without pay until the shutdown is over.
Interestingly, lawmakers and President Obama are still receiving pay, although the White House is operating with a skeleton staff and many Congressional staffers are furloughed.
Karen Bass, whose Congressional district includes Culver City, has assured constituents that she and her staff “are working tirelessly to help end the shutdown and assist constituents in any way we can.”
On Bass’ website, http://bass.house.gov/shutdown, she lists the services that will and will not be available for residents of Culver City.
Among other things, people will not be able to receive or replace Social Security cards, replace Medicare cards, or process new disability benefits. Some financial aid to school districts, colleges, and universities will be curtailed. Claims processing and compensation for veterans will continue through the end of October but may be shut down after October when funding runs out.
Applications for U.S. passports and foreign visas will still be processed.
Citizens are still obliged to pay taxes but the IRS is suspending all audits. All IRS taxpayer phone services will be suspended.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employees will continue to process green card applications.
Culver City’s WIC (Women in Crisis) program, which helps low to moderate income pregnant women and infants, will not have services affected as it is not associated with the federal USDA WIC program.
Residents who are able to help others financially may want to donate to the following organizations that help veterans and the indigent: www.amvets.org, The Wounded Warrior Project, http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/, Feeding America, http://feedingamerica.org/.
It is unclear at this time how long the shutdown will continue. At press time, Obama was meeting with Congressional leaders in an attempt to unblock the Congressional standoff.
Editors Note: Sources for this included the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, Yahoo news, Karen Bass's web site and one of her aides.