What a federal government shutdown could look like for San Diego

What a federal government shutdown could look like for San Diego

SAN DIEGO — The federal government is poised to enter a partial shutdown over the weekend with Capitol Hill still in a stalemate over spending bills for the next year.

Congressional lawmakers have until 12:01 a.m. Eastern Time on Sunday, Oct. 1 to pass a bipartisan spending package or temporary funding bill to keep the government open.

However, infighting amongst Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have stopped efforts to avert a shutdown, making it all but certain that federal agencies will start to shut down over the weekend.

A shutdown would likely have far-reaching impacts, starting with federal agencies placing hundreds of thousands of workers on unpaid furlough until congress restores funding. This would place a pause on some federal services, programming and more.

“A government shutdown would force service members and law enforcement officers to work without pay, endanger disaster response, undermine research on cancer and other diseases, risk significant delays for travelers, undermine public health and environmental protections, deny capital for small businesses, undermine food safety, delay infrastructure projects, and impair workplace safety,” a spokesperson for Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-San Diego) said in an email to FOX 5.

Should the government enter a shutdown, it would be the fourth in the last decade.

The previous shutdown, which occurred due to an impasse over allocating $5.4 billion for President Donald Trump’s proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall, was the longest in U.S. history, lasting 35 days from December 2018 to January 2019.

For San Diego residents, here’s what a government shutdown could mean:

Who will be hit first? What federal employees are still working?

The initial impacts of a government shutdown in San Diego County would be primarily felt by civilian federal workers, federal law enforcement and the military community.

Most non-essential federal employees will be furloughed without pay immediately after the shutdown begins. Meanwhile, certain types of essential employees would be expected to continue working without pay at the start of the shutdown.

Among those that would continue working without pay include: Congress and their staffers, the U.S. Postal Service, active duty service members in all branches of the military, U.S. Border Patrol agents, employees at Veterans Affairs, Transportation Security Administration agents and air traffic controllers.

In San Diego County, these changes would hit tens of thousands of federal workers, including 64,000 civilians — accounting for about 3.6% of the region’s civilian workforce — and 115,000 military personnel.

Aside from civilian employee furloughs, all operations at bases like Camp Pendleton will be expected to continue as normal without pay for on-duty personnel.

Most of these workers will likely be able to collect back pay for the duration of the shutdown when the government reopens. Some banks will be offering a paycheck assistance program for impacted patrons, including Navy Federal Credit Union.

Are federal assistance programs impacted?

Safety net programs to help low-income households access food and education could see interruptions during a government shutdown. The extent of those impacts would largely depend on how long a shutdown lasts and availability of program-by-program contingency funds.

Nearly 7 million women and children — 972,418 in California — who rely on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children could be at risk of losing assistance almost immediately, according to White House officials.

Head Start, which offers free education for disadvantaged children ages 3 to 5, would also immediately get cut, pulling funding for over 1,500 programs that serve more than 10,000 children nationwide. San Diego County has roughly 140 preschools that offer Head Start slots.

Benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) should be sent out for October as usual. However, low-income families that rely on this program to put food on the table could risk losing benefits too, should a shutdown persist for a significant period of time.

Social Security and Supplemental Security Income will continue in the event of a shutdown. Medicare and Medicaid benefits will also be largely unaffected, as they are funded separately from annual appropriations. Although, response times for recipients with issues could be delayed due to furloughs.

What happens to National Parks?

Most National Parks will also close at the start of a shutdown, including visitor centers, campgrounds, research facilities and museums. Around San Diego, this could potentially lead to the full or partial closure of destinations like Cabrillo National Monument or Joshua Tree National Park.

Will air travel be impacted?

Air travel at San Diego International Airport could also be another of noticeable disruption due to a government shutdown, despite most employees required to remain on the job. During the last shutdown, hundreds of TSA agents across the country stopped showing up as it wore on, leading to longer screening lines, flight delays and cancellations.

A government shutdown would also place a pause on the hiring and training of new air traffic controllers, potentially complicating efforts to address staffing shortages at airports that have led to flight delays and cancellations.

How would a shutdown end?

Congress will have to either pass a complete appropriations package to fund the government through the next year or get a stop-gap spending bill to President Joe Biden’s desk to continue funding the government temporarily.

On Friday, the House of Representatives failed to approve a partisan 30-day stopgap bill that would extend funding to Oct. 31 while imposing across-the-board cuts of about 30%. All House Democrats and 21 hardline Republicans ultimately voted against the measure.

In the Senate, the Democratic-majority is moving ahead with a separate bipartisan resolution for temporary funding, but House Speaker Kevin McCarthy indicated that he would not bring it for a vote without provisions that provide disaster relief funding and aid to Ukraine.

“A government shutdown is nothing more than a cruel political stunt that would hurt San Diegans and is in fact very fiscally irresponsible,” Rep. Scott Peters (D-San Diego) said in an emailed statement. “San Diego families shouldn’t be forced to pay the price for a few extreme House Republicans’ outlandish demands … A shutdown threatens the safety of all San Diegans, as critical services and federal assistance will be curtailed across the board.”

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