Government shutdown impact: Still partly closed, debt threat

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 15 2013 3:12 p.m. MDT

US Marine Terri Shreiner holds an American flag during a rally at the National World War II Memorial, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, in Washington, by the Military Coalition, a coalition of 33 of the leading veterans and uniformed services organizations, to demand an end to the partial government shutdown.The federal government remains partially shut down and faces a first-ever default between Oct. 17 and the end of the month. The Washington Monument is seen in the background.

Carolyn Kaster, Associated Press

The partial shutdown continues into its third week, with dueling plans in the Senate and in the House to reopen the government and avert a U.S. debt default. Treasury says it will run out of money to pay its bills if Congress doesn't increase its borrowing authority by Thursday.

The shutdown has had far-reaching consequences for some, but minimal impact on others. Mail is being delivered. Social Security and Medicare benefits continue to flow. But more than 400-thousand workers remain furloughed and many national landmarks and offices closed. Some national parks are reopening, though, with tourists able to once again visit Mount Rushmore National Monument in South Dakota, thanks to a deal with the state, corporate sponsors and the National Park Service.

A look at how services have been affected, and sometimes not, by Congress failing to reach an agreement averting a partial government shutdown:

BENEFIT PAYMENTS

Social Security and Medicare benefits continue to be paid out, but there could be delays in processing new disability applications. Unemployment benefits are also still going out.

The Social Security Administration is delaying the announcement of the size of next year's cost-of-living adjustment, which was supposed to be released Oct. 16. According to an analysis by The Associated Press, preliminary figures suggest next year's benefit increase will be roughly 1.5 percent. The increase will be small because consumer prices, as measured by the government, haven't gone up much the past year. For the second year in a row, it would be one of the lowest raises since automatic adjustments were adopted in 1975.

TRAVEL

Federal air traffic controllers remain on the job and airport screeners continue to funnel passengers through security checkpoints. Furloughs of safety inspectors had put inspections of planes, pilots and aircraft repair stations on hold, but the Federal Aviation Administration says it asked 800 employees — including some safety inspectors — to return to work. More than 2,900 inspectors had been furloughed. The State Department continues processing foreign applications for visas and U.S. applications for passports, since fees are collected to finance those services. Embassies and consulates overseas remain open and are providing services for U.S. citizens abroad.

FEDERAL COURTS

Federal courts, which have been using fees and other funds to operate since the shutdown began, will likely have enough money to operate until Oct. 17, and possibly Oct. 18.

After that, the courts will run out of money and shut down all nonessential work.

A limited number of workers would perform essential work, while all others would be furloughed. Each court would make a determination on what is essential and nonessential. Judges would still be able to seat jurors, but the jurors won't be paid until Congress provides funding. Court-appointed lawyers would also not get paid.

The Supreme Court opened its term Monday and says its business will go on despite the ongoing shutdown. The Supreme Court announced Thursday it would stay open through Friday, Oct. 18, including hearing two days of arguments this coming week.

VETERANS SERVICES

Veterans are still able to get health care through VA hospitals and outpatient clinics because Congress approved funding for VA health care programs one year in advance.

The department administers numerous benefits for veterans and survivors such as disability pay, pensions and tuition reimbursement. The VA has warned Congress that it will be unable to make next month's payments for those various benefits if the shutdown continues into late October. This would affect more than 5 million veterans.

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