Is Government Shutdown New Business as Usual?

In case you hadn’t noticed, the federal government remains shut down, sort of. More than a week later, it’s hard to get a handle on the impact of the latest stoppage, unless you’re among the  estimated 350,000 workers given an early pass for Christmas or 400,000 working without pay.

But judging from the Bemidji Pioneer’s account, there’s relatively little immediate fallout to report in the northwestern Minnesota regional center, a likely barometer for other cities and towns.

Some local offices for federal departments are remaining fully open during the shutdown, though. The Bemidji Social Security Office, located at 2900 Hannah Ave. NW is open, as is the U.S. Post Office at 401 Irvine Ave. NW, according to representatives. Additionally, there’s no shutdown impacts from the Federal Aviation Administration affecting the Bemidji Regional Airport.

The main concern in Bemidji appears to be a potential disruption to the flow of federal grants and contracts across a variety of agencies.

…the Department of the Interior, which oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, is one of the agencies impacted by the federal shutdown. According to a contingency plan on the bureau’s website, operational and administrative related to contract or grant administration can’t continue when there’s a lapse in funding.

The BIA’s offices remain closed for business, including Indian Health Services. Yet the agency continues to offer medical care to residents as needed.

According to its website, the IHS is continuing to provide direct clinical health care services, such as referrals for contracted services. The IHS can also perform “development, issuance, oversight and other functions to meet immediate needs of patients, medical staff and medical facilities,” the website said.

It’s the same story over at the USDA where food inspection and other essential services remain up and running.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Child Nutrition Program benefits, along with some farm payments such as market assistance loans, market facilitation payments and disaster assistance programs, will also be available during the shutdown.

In fact, the second government shutdown of 2018 doesn’t overly concern top state officials. At least not yet, according to the Pioneer Press.

Many federal programs are on a sort of ‘funding autopilot’ that should continue. Other programs can be kept going temporarily, sometimes with the help of state resources.

…Luckily, state leaders are accustomed to the recent volatility in Washington and have what [state Management and Budget Commissioner Myron] Frans called a “shutdown playbook” to consult.

Even the media appears less obsessed than usual by the current closure, perhaps recalling Sen. Chuck Schumer’s humiliation in ending the last shutdown. The Christmas closure has already lasted more than twice as long as the January 2018 standoff, perhaps because it’s increasingly viewed as business as usual in both Bemidji and Washington.