The federal government could close on Friday. Here’s what that could mean for Oregon and Southwest Washington


If members of the Congress do not reach a financing agreement by the end of Thursday – the last day of the federal financial year – the federal government will officially close on Friday morning.

Here’s an overview of what a government shutdown could mean for Oregon and Southwest Washington, updating an introduction we prepared during the 2018-19 government shutdown.

How much might the average person notice a state shutdown?

Unless you are a federal employee – or the family member of one – it may not affect your daily life significantly. If you’re on Social Security coverage, your check should still be in the mail. Nationwide screeners and air traffic controllers will continue to work at airports, so the planes will also fly as usual.

But you could get into trouble if you want to apply for a passport and need it quickly. The same is true when trying to resolve an issue with the Social Security Administration, the Veterans Administration, or the IRS.

Power lines at Bonneville Dam. The Bonneville Power Administration has its own funding mechanisms and would not be affected by a state shutdown.

Bradley W. Parks / OPB

Other programs could also have problems. For example, funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is safe, but a closure could affect the government’s ability to distribute the benefit, according to the Federal Responsible Budget Committee.

“Failure to fund the federal government beyond the end of the month would cause massive disruption for employees and all citizens who depend on them,” said Everett Kelley, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees.

“Federal employees are working diligently to serve the American people while responding to a number of concurrent national emergencies, including the coronavirus pandemic, the terrible wildfires in the west, and one of the most active hurricane seasons in years.”

How would the federal workforce in the region be affected?

There are approximately 28,000 federal employees in Oregon and another 3,400 in Clark County, Washington. Each federal agency has its own decommissioning plan, but workers can be divided into three general categories:

  • About a third are not affected because they work for the US Postal Service, the Bonneville Power Administration or other agencies with their own funding mechanisms.
  • Another third are directed to stay in the job as they are essential to public safety. That list includes airport screeners, air traffic controllers, border guards, federal law enforcement, hospital medical care, the military, power grid maintenance staff, and veterans administration caregivers. They are expected to keep working but will not be paid until funding starts again.
  • The last group – including around a third of the local federal workforce – will not work during a shutdown. These include part-time workers for agencies such as the forest service. With previous closings, Congress paid workers on leave afterwards, but there is no guarantee.

The Oregon Employment Department estimates that approximately 13,000 Oregon jobs could be affected by federal vacation.

The main terminal at Portland International Airport.

The main terminal at Portland International Airport. When the federal government closes, airport screeners are expected to keep showing up for work – but they won’t get paid.

Ericka Cruz Guevarra / OPB

During the 2018 closure, agencies such as the National Science Foundation, US Fish and Wildlife, US Geological Survey, Environmental Protection Agency, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ceased operations.

“The employees just want to do their job. All they ask is to be paid for their work and they want to be used as political pawns, ”said Timothy DeBolt, Northwest Representative for the American Federation of Government Employees.

According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, closures in 2013 and 2018 resulted in around 850,000 of the more than two million non-postal federal employees taking leave nationwide.

Crater Lake, Oregon's only national park, in 2016.

A file photo of Crater Lake National Park. We don’t know what impact access to national parks and monuments would have if the federal government closed in 2021.

Mark Schuster / US Department of the Interior

What about national parks and monuments?

We do not know it. When they closed in 2013, national parks and monuments were completely closed, resulting in iconic photos of old veterans denied entry to a WWII memorial and vacationers being turned away. Many parks remained open during the 2018 closure, although services such as garbage collection were temporarily suspended.

What about government programs like the Oregon Health Plan and Temporary Aid to Needy Families who are heavily dependent on federal funding?

The Oregon Health Authority said it is monitoring the situation and currently has the resources to continue any federally funded health programs.

“Federal grants, like those from the OHA’s public health department from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, remain active,” the agency said in a statement. “Neither FEMA dollar funded projects that are deemed material nor Medicaid funds should be affected. We encourage Oregonians to continue to have access to the Oregon Health Plan, the Special Nutritional Supplement Program for Women, Infants, and Children (better known as WIC), the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and other benefits. “

The Oregon legislative budget for 2019-2021 includes more than $ 24 billion in federal funding for grants, state funding, and entitlement programs.

The Oregon Health Authority said it was also committed to the WIC programs: “WIC clinics are open as usual; WIC participants should use their eWIC cards to continue buying healthy groceries for their families and not to miss any scheduled appointments; WIC continues to register all authorized persons who are interested in WIC services; WIC-authorized grocery stores, pharmacies and farmers should continue to accept eWIC cards, ”the agency said in a statement.

In summary, the Oregon Health Authority’s federally funded programs should have little impact unless a shutdown is prolonged.

How would a 2021 shutdown compare to previous state shutdowns?

If it does, it will likely be a major shutdown as the current Congress hasn’t passed funding laws.

The last closure from December 2018 to January 2019 was a partial closure as Congress had already passed five of 12 budget laws. That shutdown lasted 35 days and reduced U.S. economic growth by an estimated $ 3 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

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