Federal shutdown in Minn.: known and unknowns

  • Article by: PATRICK CONDON
  • Associated Press
  • September 30, 2013 - 3:55 PM

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesotans have a bit more experience than most Americans with the kind of partial government shutdown that loomed over the nation on Monday.

Temporary state government shutdowns closed many state offices and parks and shut down highway projects and rest stops in Minnesota in 2005 and 2011. A partial federal shutdown would in some ways mimic what happened then.

But even as Congress volleyed back and forth in the final hours before the midnight deadline, there were many unknowns about how a federal shutdown would play out in Minnesota and nationally.

Here's what's known, and what isn't:

— All of Minnesota's national parks and other national recreational sites would be closed, though visitors using overnight campgrounds or other park facilities would have 48 hours to make arrangements to get out.

— A number of other federal services that cause people to interact regularly with the federal government would continue. The U.S. mail will keep being delivered. Social Security and Medicare benefits will continue to flow, though new applications for benefits could be delayed. Air traffic controllers will stay on the job, as well as the airport screeners that keep flyers moving through security checkpoints. Federal inspectors will keep enforcing safety rules, and passport offices will stay open since fees are collected to fund those services. All 116 federal prisons would remain open, including those located in Duluth, Rochester, Waseca and Sandstone.

— There are about 18,000 federal government employees living and working in Minnesota, and many would be temporarily furloughed without pay. But as many as half those workers might not be furloughed, because they are performing emergency work involving the safety of human life, the protection of property and other types of jobs that have been deemed necessary. Workers who are kept on the job would likely be working without paychecks, but would be paid once the shutdown is ended. Congress would determine whether furloughed workers get any back pay.

Workers who don't know if they're furloughed or not have been urged to be in contact with managers at their agencies. Different federal offices have different protocols for notifying employees of plans for Tuesday and the days following.

The U.S. military's 1.4 million active duty personnel worldwide would stay on duty, but their paychecks would be delayed.

— Federal courthouses including those in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth and Fergus Falls would continue normal operations for approximately 10 business days into a federal shutdown. If it's still going by then, the federal judicial branch would have to start furloughs of employees who have not been deemed essential, though cases would continue to be heard.

— While much of Washington's political fight over the shutdown revolves around funding for the new federal health-care law, the partial shutdown would do little to derail its rollout. The Congressional Research Service says it appears substantial implantation of the law would continue. Since Minnesota is managing its own exchange rather than leaving the job to the federal government, none of the state employees working on the local effort would be affected by the shutdown.

— Minnesota's Management and Budget Office says that federal payments and reimbursements that help fund some state operations could be delayed. MMB has asked Minnesota state agencies to assess their potential risk of loss of federal funding, but at this time state budget officials say they do not anticipate that any state funds will have to be used to replace reduced federal funds.

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