Over the weekend, US House Republicans refused to give up their efforts to defund the Affordable Care Act, even though it is the law of the land, upheld by the Supreme Court. Their leadership stated that as long as the ACA is funded they would shut down the federal government at midnight, September 30th.
Councilor Joe Baldacci held a conference call September 30th, with members of the Obama administration about the possible affects a shut down would have in Maine.
“According to what we learned on the call homeland security, border patrol, food inspectors, curtailments in non ‘critical’ defense operations will happen… it’s across the board as 800,000 furloughs nationwide will happen,” said Bangor City Councilor Joe Baldacci.
The Health Insurance Exchanges will still open on Oct. 1.
“Whether they like it or not the Affordable Care Act is still kicking in tomorrow and still available to people,” said Sam Berger a senior Obama administration official on the conference call.
The Constitution restricts federal funds from being spent until they are appropriated—meaning that Congress has to reach agreements by passing annual appropriations bills. The current funding ends on September 30 and appropriations bills have not been passed for the coming fiscal year. This process used to be a matter of a simple vote, as Congress has already approved much of this spending but Republican’s are now using the process as a political bargaining tool.
“A government shutdown is totally unnecessary. It would really hurt our economy, and credit rating overseas,” said Baldacci. “Some visible effects in Maine will be the shut down of Acadia National Park. The Small Business Administration will stop making loans that are a critical help to Maine business and home loans would be put on hold as well as the processing of Community Block Grants, which have helped revitalize Bangor’s downtown and waterfront.”
Federal agencies will cut their operations to the bare minimum under a shutdown.
How the shutdown will affect some essential services:
· Health Insurance Exchanges—The exchanges will still open on Oct. 1. For more information, go to healthcare.gov.
· National Parks, Reserves—National Park Service sites, museums, and monuments, as well as federal wildlife reserves, will be closed.
· Small Business Administration—Most services, with the exception of the disaster loan program, will be suspended.
· IRS—Walk-in IRS offices and the Taxpayer Advocate offices will be closed.
· Social Security benefits will continue being deposited or mailed to recipients. However, Social Security offices will be open with limited staff. They will continue to take applications for benefits and appeals, and process change of address and change of banking deposit information. Other services, such as requests for yearly statements, won’t be processed. Social Security hearings already scheduled will take place, but new hearings will not be scheduled.
· Medicare benefits are exempt from the shutdown, so current participants should not notice any disruption, but new applications could be delayed.
· Veterans—VHA hospitals such as VA Togus and Community Based Outpatient Clinics will stay open, VBA disability compensation will be paid, and the VA call center (1-800-827-1000) will be operational. However, VBA regional office public contact services will not be available, decisions on claim appeals will not be made, and the Education Call Center will be suspended.
· Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—SNAP will continue operations and eligible households will still receive monthly benefits for October.
· Women Infants and Children—WIC offices will remain open and benefits will be distributed regularly in October.