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Much remains open despite federal government “shutdown”

By   /   October 1, 2013  /   Be the first to comment

EAST PROVIDENCE — As is the case with many things happening in Washington, D.C. these days, there’s much confusion about what exactly are the effects of the current federal government “shutdown” which began as of midnight on Oct. 1.

Most average Americans, including those here in city and especially seniors, have concerns about the benefits they receive from the government and depend upon to live their daily lives.

Despite the doom-and-gloom reports, some of which may hold merit, several municipal projects and programs that rely on federal funding will also remain available and functional because those dollars have previously been accounted for or delivered.

“There are no immediate impacts, but we will be monitoring the situation if the shutdown becomes protracted and it has an impact upon our federally funded programs,” said East Providence Director of Planning Jeanne Boyle.

USA Today recently published an extremely thorough explanation of what services will remain available and what offices or departments will remain open despite the shut down. The synopsis was broken down into 66 parts, including one subsection titled “GOVERNMENT BENEFITS,” the breakdown of which follows:

32. Would a shutdown put the brakes on implementing the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare?” No. The state-run exchanges for the uninsured would open as scheduled Tuesday. “The marketplaces will be open on Tuesday, no matter what, even if there is a government shutdown,” President Obama said Friday.

33. Why not? Like Social Security or Medicaid, Obamacare is a permanent entitlement that isn’t subject to annual funding by Congress. “Many of the core parts of the health care law are funded through mandatory appropriations and wouldn’t be affected,” Gary Cohen, the Health and Human Services Department official overseeing the health care rollout, said last week.

34. Would seniors continue to get Social Security benefits? Yes. Social Security is a mandatory spending program, and the people who send those checks would continue to work under a legal doctrine called “necessary implication.”

35. Can I apply for Social Security benefits, appeal a denial of benefits, change my address or sign up for direct deposit?Yes.

36. Can I get a new or replacement Social Security card, benefit verification statement or earnings record correction?No.

37. Would the government continue to pay unemployment benefits? Yes. The Employment and Training Administration “will continue to provide essential functions, as occurred during the shutdown of 1995,” according to the Department of Labor contingency plan.

38. Will I be able to get food stamps? Yes. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is funded through the Recovery Act and from funds that don’t expire for another year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says.

39. What about WIC?No money would be available to pay the administrative costs of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. But because it’s administered by states, there may be state funds available.

40. And the federal school lunch program? Schools are reimbursed for these costs on a monthly basis and are allowed to carry over funds from the previous fiscal year. The USDA expects most schools will be able to continue providing meals through October.

41. What will happen to veterans receiving compensation for service- or combat-related wounds and injuries? The Department of Veterans Affairs said if the shutdown continues into late October, it will run out of money for compensation and pension checks to more than 3.6 million veterans who rely on the money to support themselves.

42. Can I still get a federally backed loan? Maybe not. “Federal loans for rural communities, small business owners, families buying a home will be frozen,” President Obama said Friday.

43. Does that mean I can’t get an FHA mortgage? No. The Federal Housing Administration says it “will endorse new loans under current multi-year appropriation authority in order to support the health and stability of the U.S. mortgage market.”

44. Does that mean I can’t get a VA mortgage? No. The Department of Veterans Affairs says loans are funded via user fees and should continue. However, during the last shutdown, “loan Guaranty certificates of eligibility and certificates of reasonable value were delayed.”

45. Will deceased veterans still be able to get a burial benefit? Yes. Burial benefits, headstones and death notices will still be available.

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