Without budget deal, government shutdown would have pervasive effects in Minnesota
A looming government shutdown could have wide-ranging impacts in Minnesota, from food assistance to travel.
Government funding expires Oct. 1, the start of the federal budget year.
A shutdown will effectively begin at 12:01 a.m. Sunday if Congress is not able to pass a funding plan that the president signs into law.
In the event of a shutdown, federal agencies have to stop all nonessential work and will not send paychecks as long as the shutdown lasts.
There are about 17,000 federal civilian workers in Minnesota, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Some would be furloughed during a shutdown.
Others deemed “essential” would keep working without pay until a new spending plan is signed, including air traffic controllers, federal law enforcement officers and U.S. Postal Service employees.
Transportation Security Administration agents who operate security at airports would be among those expected to continue working, although experts predict delayed paychecks could lead to a rise in absenteeism.
“You can imagine that people don’t like to show up to work as much when they’re not actually getting paid, so that’s likely going to lead to some issues with absenteeism and longer lines because there’s fewer TSA workers,” said Tyler Schipper, economics professor at the University of St. Thomas. “Travel through an airport is going to be a little bit chaotic while a government shutdown is going on.”
Some federal programs could see their funding expire almost immediately.
The White House has said WIC — the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children that provides nutritional aid to low-income pregnant women and children up to age 5 — could run out of money within days.
The Minnesota Department of Health provided this statement to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS on the status of WIC in Minnesota, if a government shutdown occurs:
“The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is monitoring the possibility of a federal shutdown and potential impacts both for our own department programs and those of our partners. We are working with partners to share information on any expected changes as needed.
“One of the more prominent issues at this point is the Women, Infants and Children program (WIC). WIC is a nutrition support program that helps young families have a healthy pregnancy, encourages, and supports breastfeeding, and helps ensure healthy infants and children.
“We are advising WIC local agencies, vendors, and participants to continue with the program for the time being. Using federal funds already allocated to the state, this program can continue to operate through the first part of October even if a federal shutdown occurs.
“WIC serves 106,000 Minnesotans every month, including nearly 40% of the babies born in Minnesota. Every week Minnesotans using WIC make nearly $2 million in food purchases at 770 food vendors and 119 pharmacies around the state.”Minnesota Department of Health
There are also growing concerns about child care, as thousands of kids across the country could lose access to Head Start, a federal preschool program.
Gov. Tim Walz said the state is analyzing all possible shortfalls and ways the state could help ease the impact.
“What we’re doing in the state of Minnesota is stepping up if there’s going to be a gap in any services that are delivered. We’re trying to analyze right now, just like we’ve done this before when it looked like 2019 we were going through one,” Walz said. “At this point in time, my pledge to Minnesotans is to make sure with these essential services, there will be no gap to Minnesotan state government and our partners will be able to step into that.”
Not all government services are affected during a shutdown.
For example, Social Security checks still go out and Medicare benefits continue.
However, even services that are operational may see delays, such as passport applications and gun permits.
“As a general rule, if you are planning on having to apply for something from a federal agency or go meet with somebody in person at a federal agency, expect that process is going to be more cumbersome than it usually would be,” Schipper said.
The last government shutdown happened between 2018 and 2019 and lasted for 35 days, but it was only a partial shutdown because Congress had passed some appropriations bills to fund parts of the government.