Partial Government Shutdown impacts local services

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Evansville Courier and Press on 01/08/2019 by Segann March

EVANSVILLE, Ind. — While the nearly three-week government shutdown has impacted more than 800,000 federal employees and various agencies nationwide, its local impact has been minimal.

News reports surfaced over the weekend that one well-known federal initiative — Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — may have limited funding after Jan. 31 which would impact the over 12 percent of Vanderburgh County households receiving food stamps.

The SNAP provides the benefits commonly known as food stamps and, as of now, “will continue operations and eligible households will receive monthly benefits for January,” according to a statement from the federal agency.

USDA announced Tuesday that SNAP beneficiaries will receive full benefits in February, which will be readily available on EBT cards on or before Jan. 20, if states request an early issuance to USDA.

“We know that this is a time of great uncertainty and no doubt some anxiety for the people that rely on SNAP, and dealing with tough times,” Brandon Lipps, Acting Deputy Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services (FNCS) said during a media briefing Tuesday afternoon. “Our child nutrition programs have sufficient funding to continue operations through March.”

USDA is still considering various options for March benefits, they announced. There is $3 billion in the contingency fund; however, those funds aren’t being used to provide February benefits.

In 2016, nearly 319,000 households throughout Indiana were SNAP recipients, according to the USDA.

Other agencies in the region have felt little impact.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

TSA personnel are employed under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which monitors security for flight passengers.

USA Today reported that nearly 38,000 employees of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have been furloughed since the government shutdown.

A reported sickout by still working TSA employees nationwide in response to the federal government shutdown hasn’t impacted Evansville Regional Airport TSA agents, local officials said.

EVV marketing director Leslie Fella said the number of TSA employees calling in sick locally since the shutdown has remained consistent with this time of year in year’s past.

The Indianapolis Star reported Monday that TSA agents appeared to be fully staffed at the Indianapolis International Airport this week.

TSA agents, like many government workers, will not receive paychecks due to the shutdown.

WIC

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) in Vanderburgh County will not be affected by the government’s shutdown.

Funding for the program is in “good shape” for Vanderburgh residents, said Mary Ellen Stonestreet, WIC coordinator at the Vanderburgh County Health Department.

“We are in good financial standing, and we do have funding until the end of September,” she said. “We are funded until that time. Clients will still be able to get their WIC benefits at the grocery (stores). There are funds to pay the groceries for the WIC food.”

The program provides Federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals and nutrition education for breastfeeding, non-breastfeeding post-partum and low-income pregnant women, infants and children.

National Parks

The National Park Service stated on its website that some national parks will remain accessible to visitors, but access can change without notice. And some parks are closed completely due to the government shutdown.

“For most parks, there will be no National Park Service-provided visitor services such as restrooms, trash collection, facilities or road maintenance,” according to the website.

The George Rogers Clark National Historical Park in Vincennes, Indiana, and Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial Park in Spencer County, Indiana, are accessible to the public as of now, although services there are restricted. Some Mammoth Cave National Park areas are accessible but there are no services available

About 401 parks, monuments and cultural sites operated by the National Park Service closed due to the 2013 government shutdown.