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The federal government may shut down. Here’s what it means for Oregon

Shutdown park

If Congress does not reach a funding agreement by the end of Saturday — the last day of the federal fiscal year — the federal government will shut down on Sunday.

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, fueled by hard-right demands for deep cuts, have forced a confrontation over federal spending.

Related: As a federal government shutdown looms, Washington state officials brace for impact

A shutdown would furlough millions of federal employees and leave members of the military without pay. It could also potentially disrupt air travel and restrict vital safety net services.

A file photo from, Oct. 1, 2013, when the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., was closed due to a federal shutdown. If Congress does not reach an agreement by Saturday, national park sites across the country could again be closed, Department of Interior officials warned this week.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

OPB asked what questions you have about the shutdown. Here are answers, and other information Oregonians should know.

How much might the average person notice a federal shutdown?

A government shutdown will directly impact Oregon’s approximately 28,500 federal workers, who on average make about $72,100 a year. For everyone else — at least for now — a federal shutdown might not change much of their day-to-day lives. Travel will continue as usual, Social Security and Supplemental Security Income checks will still arrive, Medicare benefits will continue, and the Veterans Administration will still provide benefits and health care for veterans.

But if the shutdown drags on for weeks, some services could become strained. Many federal workers who provide essential services related to public safety — like air traffic controllers and federal law enforcement — will continue working through the shutdown, but only under the promise of getting paychecks after it ends. That could pressure some to leave the job, and cause burnout among those who stay behind.

During the weeks-long 2018 shutdown, many air traffic controllers left, leading to flight delays and cancellations. The Port of Portland suggests travelers prepare for potential delays related to staff shortages.

Some passport facilities also could close in the event of a shutdown, according to the State Department’s 2022 guidance.

A 2021 file photo of the Portland International Airport. Airport officials suggest travelers prepare for potential delays related to staff shortages if the federal government shuts down on Sunday.

A 2021 file photo of the Portland International Airport. Airport officials suggest travelers prepare for potential delays related to staff shortages if the federal government shuts down on Sunday.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

Some federal workers will continue getting paid as usual because their agencies already have an allocated budget, or they have their own independent budgeting systems, like the U.S. Postal Service or the Bonneville Power Administration.

Many federal employees who aren’t considered essential won’t work at all — and won’t get pay. They include many administrative and part-time workers for agencies like the Forest Service.

Federal contractors and other businesses that rely on government spending, including tourism-related services, also might lose income.

Can I still access food and nutrition services during a federal shutdown?

Yes, people should still be able to access food benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly referred to as food stamps. Leaders with the U.S Department of Agriculture, which runs the program, said it has enough funding to last through October.

Nutrition benefits will also continue to be available through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, also known as WIC. The program provides healthy food, nutrition guidance, breastfeeding support and other resources to low-income pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as children up to age 5. In Oregon, that includes 61,813 children and infants.

Oregon leaders said local providers have enough funding for at least the next 30 days.

Can I still take my child to Head Start?

Yes, Head Start early childhood education programs will continue to operate, though some programs pay lose funding sooner than others.

Oregon programs have enough funding to last through October, according to Nancy Perin, executive director of the Oregon Head Start association.

If the shutdown lasts into November, though, some staff might need to be furloughed, or some classes might temporarily close.

“We just don’t really know at this point,” said Perin. “It leaves a lot of uncertainty for families and our staff. They don’t know what the future holds for them.”

What about Medicare ?

Benefits under Medicare and the Affordable Care Act are considered mandatory spending, so patients will still be able to use those services, and doctors and hospitals will continue to submit bills and get paid.

But some services, such as enrollment for new users, could be strained, as the staff that run those departments will be furloughed.

State health programs might also take a hit, as a little over half of the Oregon Health Authority’s $35.8 billion budget comes from federal funds. A spokesperson with the agency said staff are closely monitoring the possibility of a shutdown, and how it could impact health coverage, substance use, reproductive health and other programs.

What about Social Security and veterans benefits?

The Veterans Administration will close its public-facing regional offices during a federal shutdown, including the regional office in Portland. But veteran health care and benefits — including housing, compensation, pension, education, and burial services — should be not impacted, according to a statement from VA leaders. Still, some programs could be restricted, including career counseling, outreach, and cemetery maintenance.

Social Security and Supplemental Security Income checks won’t be affected, though the Social Security Administration has said it will pause some services, including benefit verifications and earnings updates.

Will disaster recovery services continue?

The White House estimates that a shutdown would lead to delays in about 2,000 disaster recovery projects across the country, including 80 in Oregon. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund “continues to dwindle and is now forced to prioritize only immediate lifesaving and life sustaining operations,” according to a White House press release issued Thursday.

What about national parks and monuments?

The Department of the Interior announced Friday morning that in the event of a lapse in government appropriations, National Park Service sites will be closed.

“This means that the majority of national parks will be closed completely to public access,” the announcement reads. “Areas that, by their nature, are physically accessible to the public will face significantly reduced visitor services.”

Crater Lake, Oregon's only national park, in 2016.

Crater Lake, Oregon’s only national park, in a file photo from 2016. The majority of national parks will be closed completely to public access if the federal government shuts down.

Mark Schuster / U.S. Department of the Interior

Gates will be locked at park sites across the country, visitor centers will be closed and thousands of park rangers will be furloughed, the announcement reads. The agency is asking people not to visit national parks during the shutdown “out of consideration for protection of natural and cultural resources, as well as visitor safety.”

Will members of Congress still get paid?

Members of Congress will continue to receive paychecks during shutdowns, because it’s guaranteed in the Constitution. Some members of Congress, including Oregon Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer, have officially asked that their pay be withheld until a shutdown ends. Members of the House have introduced legislation that would prevent Congress from getting paid during a shutdown. But as things stand, they will continue to receive paychecks.

In the past, members of Congress have also offered to donate their pay to charities while the shutdown was underway.

Why are we facing a federal shutdown?

By the end of each fiscal year, Congress is supposed to pass 12 different spending bills that fund agencies across the federal government. Lawmakers sometimes bring their negotiations down to the wire, and resort to passing last-minute continuing resolutions that allow the government to keep operating while they work on full-year appropriations.

Politicians often use the looming deadline to highlight contentious spending issues. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy reached a budget deal with President Joe Biden earlier this year, but a group of House GOP lawmakers has rejected it. They’re demanding that federal spending be cut by 8% for many agencies, and they’ve attached legislation related to illegal immigration and drug trafficking.

If no funding legislation — or no temporary solution — is passed before Sunday, federal agencies must stop all non-essential work, and they cannot send out paychecks for the duration of the shutdown.

The White House told federal agencies last Friday to prepare for a shutdown.

How would this shutdown differ from previous shutdowns?

The last shutdown was December 2018, and it lasted through January 2019 — the longest government shutdown in history. But in that case, five of the 12 appropriations bills had been passed, so it was considered a partial shutdown. It lasted 35 days and reduced U.S. economic growth by an estimated $3 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

This year, none of the appropriations bills have been passed. So a 2023 shutdown, depending on how long it lasts, could be more similar to the one that happened in 2013. In that case, the government completely shut down for 17 days. Up to 850,000 federal employees were furloughed, according to the White House Office of Management and Budget. The lost productivity alone was estimated at about $2 billion. A Standard & Poor’s assessment at the time said the total cost was about $24 billion.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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