OLYMPIA, Wash. – The federal government has begun a partial shutdown after congressional Republicans demanded changes in the nation’s health care law as the price for essential federal funding and President Barack Obama and Democrats refused.
Here’s a look at how services in Washington state are likely to be affected, beginning today:
In spite of the fact that funding of the health care law is at the center of the budget battle in Congress, implementation of key parts of the law begins today regardless of any shutdown. Open enrollment begins today, and consumers will be able to start purchasing health plans that would take effect on Jan. 1.
Mail deliveries will continue as usual. The U.S. Postal Service relies on income from stamps and other postal fees to keep running and receives no tax dollars for day-to-day operations.
State Department of Health spokesperson Tim Church says the agency will be able to continue to provide the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, for nine days after a shutdown. After that, the program, which provides checks for supplemental food, health care referrals and nutrition education for pregnant women, mothers and their young children, will shut down. About 195,000 people a month are served under the program.
All national parks will close, as well as national monuments like Mount St. Helens, and Forest Service ranger stations will be closed. Visitors using overnight campgrounds or other park facilities will be given 48 hours to make alternate arrangements and leave the park.
The Employment Security Department says it will continue paying unemployment benefits through this week, but is uncertain whether officials will be able to maintain that if a federal shutdown lasts until next week.
Full time active guardsmen will not be furloughed, but roughly 1,000 federal technicians, including vehicle and aircraft maintenance workers, computer technicians and human resources personnel will be furloughed starting today. Those employees have been told to come in today to receive further instructions. The governor will still be able to activate furloughed employees in case of an emergency that require him to call up the National Guard.
Current highway projects aren’t at immediate risk, but if a shutdown lasts for more than a month, it could hold up permitting on some projects, potentially causing delays.