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Government Shutdown Hits New Orleans
Some of the federal government has gone fishin', but it's not because of an abundance of redfish. Congress couldn't come to a comrpomise on Obamacare, so a government shutdown was put in place as Tuesday began. From national parks to women, infants and children, the shutdown is putting federal functions on ice. Click through for some of the closures caused by the many furloughs and funding freezes are affecting New Orleans and the rest of Louisiana.
Since the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives couldn't agree on a spending bill to fund the federal government for the next year, the government went into the vegetative "partial shutdown" mode on Tuesday night. Usually, passing the federal budget measure in question is a routine matter, considering that much of the U.S. government needs money approved on a yearly basis to keep rolling. But an effort by some House Republicans to insert a measure that will hold up Obamacare brought the gears to a stop.
Despite the shutdown, mail is still being delivered, and airport security checks are still being performed. Don't try anything sneaky, either, as the FBI is still investigating cases, and federal prisons are still staffed. Social security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits are still being processed, and food stamp payments are still being issued.
Across the country, however, key functions of the federal government ground to a halt Tuesday as employees were suddenly broken into such morale-boosting categories of "essential" and "nonessential." Some of the nationwide services that are stopped included student loan processing, immigration and passport application processing and, in some cases, benefits for veterans.
Here's some of the closures that have a direct impact on New Orleans:
National Hurricane Center/NOAA The National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service will continue issuing tropical weather advisories and other weather reports. However, the bulk of NOAA employees are furloughed.
Army Corps of Engineers New Orleans' Army Corps of Engineers office remains fully staffed for the time being, but funds could run out if the shutdown drags on. A spokesperson said the Corps is evaluating on a "day-by-day basis." The City's hurricane protection system is fully funded, and remains operational during the shutdown.
Louisiana National Guard The Bayou State's chapter of the National Guard put 876 civillian employees on furlough. Another 156 civilian employees are still on-duty. Active duty guardspeople are still on duty supporting "key military operations, emergency services, homeland security, counter-drug operations and others that support these efforts," according to a spokesperson.
National Parks New Orleans is home to a number of federally-run parks and other gorgeous natural sanctuaries, all of which are now closed. The Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve, which includes the Jazz National Historic Park and French Quarter Visitor's Center and Chalmette Battlefield, among other local spots, is closed. The Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge, and all other federally-run parks and national wildlife refuges in Louisiana are also closed.
WIC Program Officially, funding for the Women, Infants and Children program (WIC), which provides nutrition and health care servies for children up to the age of five pregnant women and postpartum women, is suspended during the government shutdown. However, WIC said Tuesday that contingency funds will be released to states to continue to pay the benefits. If the shutdown continues, however, that money could begin to dwindle.
Social Security Benefits and new applications are still being processed by the Social Security Administration, and local offices are open. However, the SSA isn't issuing new or replacement Social Security or Medicare cards, nor are they issuing proof of income letters. Application processing for new benefits is also likely to slow down.
Military The Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans, headquartered in Belle Chasse, furloughed about 1,800 civillian workers. Another 5,000 military employees stayed on the job.
Federal Courts The U.S. Eastern District of Louisiana and the rest of the federal judiciary remained open on Tuesday, and will continue to be open for about ten business days. If the shutdown is still in effect at that time, then the courts re-evaluate whether to remain open. The BP Trial is continuing during the shutdown.
U.S. Attorney's Office The U.S. Department of Justice will continue to work on criminal cases, but most civil cases will be curtailed during the shutdown. Federal lawyers across the country are filing motions to postpone those civil cases until the funding comes through.
National Finance Center The headquarters for human resources and other administrative functions for 130 federal agencies is located in New Orleans East at the Michoud facility. Due to the shutdown, the NFC is operating on an abbreviated schedule, open from 6:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Small Business Administration SBA Disaster Recovery Loans will still be processed during the shutdown. However, activities surrounding all of the other loans offered by the Administration are suspended.
Oil and Gas Permitting The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which regulates the oil and gas industry, is keeping 403 out of 772 employees onboard. Permitting and enforcement operations will mostly continue during the shutdown, according to BSEE. Fellow regulators the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will not be performing environmental reviews or renewable energy work during the shutdown. However, that Bureau will continue its work to help BSEE permitting. At BOEM, 477 out of 549 workers are being furloughed. Both agencies have large offices in New Orleans.
Michoud Assembly Facility New Orleans East's own NASA facility will have to halt their new launch system for now, as 97 percent of the space agency's employees are furloughed.
Members of Congress Louisiana's Congressional delegation remains in Washington as the budget remains in limbo. The two senators and six members of the U.S. House of Representatives are still pulling down a paycheck during the furloughs.
NoDef will post more local effects of the shutdown as we receive information.
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