The federal government shutdown – due to a budgeting impasse hinged partly on raising the debt ceiling and funding Obamacare – moved into its second week Monday, and its impacts for Idaho County so far have been minimal.
The effect to outdoors recreation opportunities has included signed closures to sites such as Skookumchuck Recreational Area south of White Bird; however, information on the specific impacts is unavailable due to staff furloughs.
According to official shutdown procedures, both the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) will continue its law enforcement, emergency response (including for wildfire), inspection and enforcement duties. BLM programs and services currently ceased include recreational areas and campgrounds, processing of permits, timber sales, work on resource management plans. Also, businesses operated by outfitters with BLM-issue permits will not be able to operate on BLM-managed public lands that are closed.
USFS fuel wood permits are still valid. However, area businesses authorized to sell firewood cutting permits have been contacted to cease sales until the shutdown is over.
U.S. passport application at the Idaho County Courthouse is “business as usual,” according to Idaho County Clerk Kathy Ackerman. Processing and sending proceeds as usual, and there is no change in turnaround time.
Following a week on furlough, around 850 full-time staff for the Idaho National Guard were funded and brought back to work Monday under authorization of the “Pay Our Military” Act. The shutdown, however, did not impact the guard’s armory in Grangeville where a full-time staffer remains on duty.
According to spokesman, Colonel Tim Marsano, last week’s shutdown impacted the guard’s regular maintenance activities. This kept planes grounded, and a skeleton crew was available for helicopters, in case of a search and rescue mission, but not for maintenance.
Another impact for the guard is its regularly planned unit training assembly (drill; held two weekends a month) was postponed. For the Idaho Air National Guard and its 1,500 total personnel, its drill was cancelled with no makeup date set at this point.
With drills delayed or cancelled, accompanying pay is also affected, which for some people, Marsano said, can definitely impact their personal finances. The last time this happened the duration was for three weeks, but Congress then authorized for retroactive pay.
“At this time there’s no indication this will or won’t happen,” Marsano said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty.”
What else during the shutdown?
The Idaho Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) has received contingency and reallocation funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture so it can continue to honor vouchers and offer clinical services through the end of October.
In Idaho, WIC has about 43,000 participants, who each receive a monthly voucher for an average of $50. Of that amount, Idaho County has 268 program participants.
Currently, WIC vouchers for October have been issued and can be spent through the month, according to an Idaho Department of Health and Welfare spokesman.
If the federal shutdown lasts longer than a month, benefits and services for the Idaho WIC program could be temporarily disrupted. If this happens, DHW will provide information so program participants and partners can make plans for an interruption of benefits or services.
Indian Health Service (HIS) will continue to provide direct clinic health care services as well as referrals for contracted services that cannot be provided through IHS clinics.
Other government services that will continue despite the shutdown: Social Security beneficiaries will continue receiving checks, U.S. Postal Service will keep delivering mail, and active military will continue serving.