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Government shutdown: What's open, closed and more

Government shutdown: What's open, closed and more

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If snow, rain and gloom of night can't stop these couriers from their appointed rounds, what's a government shutdown? The U.S. Postal Service is spared from a shutdown because it gets its money mainly from selling stamps and delivering packages.

Veterans health

One federal agency unaffected by the shutdown is the VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System, which is open and seeing patients today. VA spokesman Will Ackerman said veterans health care is funded on a two-year cycle, so there already is money in place for another year.

"We're open for business as usual," he said.

Federal Courts

Good news if you're looking to file a federal lawsuit. Bad news if you're a criminal about to stand trial.

Federal courthouses around the country are open for the foreseeable future.

The courts' chief administrator sent out a memorandum last week that said, in the case of a shutdown, the courts have enough money to continue operating at normal levels until Oct. 15.

What happens after that is anyone's guess.

But, for now, court officials are accepting filings and collecting fees. Bankruptcy judges are hearing cases. And the lawyers are still arguing.

Federal offices

If you want to know if a federal office is open, dial the number.

Several offices, including the IRS, are going with a standard greeting: "Due to government shutdown, this office will be closed until further notice."


If you're a taxpayer looking for help from the Internal Revenue Service, now is not a good time.

The IRS has closed its walk-in centers and its telephone hotlines. It's also stopped its audits. (File this under the good news category.)

The IRS is limiting its service to essential functions. That includes processing electronic tax returns and continuing criminal enforcement operations.

In all, about 8,700 of the agency's 95,000 employees will continue to work throughout the shutdown.

Social Security

Already collecting benefits? Have no fear. They'll keep coming.

But those who need to enroll in the program, get a replacement Social Security card or have questions about their benefits could be out of luck. The Social Security Administration will reduce staffing in the event of a shutdown. That means potential delays for those who visit a Social Security office (180,000 per day across the country) or call the agency (445,000 per day nationally).

Social programs

Food stamp recipients in Nebraska do not have to worry — for the time being.

Several state programs intended to help low-income families and others currently are not being affected by the shutdown.

Programs such as food stamps and Aid to Dependent Children have enough money to continue for now. However, if the shutdown lasts for a long time, those programs and others — including a child-care subsidy program and the Women, Infants and Children supplemental nutrition program — may be affected.

“We continue to monitor the situation. The question we’re facing is how long this will last because that determines potential impacts,” said Kerry Winterer, head of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

The situation varies from state to state. In Iowa, for example, the Women, Infants and Children program learned Tuesday that no checks can be issued until further notice.

Health care

Doctors will continue to see Medicare patients.

Medicaid recipients also don’t have to worry.

And parents who are getting help from the state to provide their children with health coverage don’t have to worry either.

Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, are not affected by the shutdown.

Unhappy Campers

Not even campers are immune from the government shutdown.

People wishing to commune with nature at two campgrounds near Gavins Point Dam on the Nebraska-South Dakota border are being turned away.

The Cottonwood and Tailwaters campgrounds are run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is closing the facilities about 15 miles north of Crofton, Neb., because of the shutdown.

People who are camping there right now have until 8 p.m. today to fold up their tents and skedaddle. All newcomers are being denied access.

National parks

Gorgeous day for a picnic in a federal park? Think again.

All the national parks and all the national visitor centers in Iowa and Nebraska are closed, including the visitor center at the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail in Omaha, Homestead National Monument near Beatrice, Neb., Scotts Bluff National Monument and Agate Fossil Beds National Monument in western Nebraska.

No field trips

The effects of the federal shut down has trickled down to the elementary level.

More than 500 schoolchildren were set to take part in "Pioneer Days" at the Homestead National Monument near Beatrice.

The fourth-graders' trip to the park has been canceled until further notice, said Mark Engler, superintendent at Homestead.

City services

City of Omaha services are not likely to be affected by the federal shutdown.

Directors of the city's public works and parks departments said Tuesday that they will continue moving forward with street projects and other ongoing work not funded with federal dollars. Some community development grants could be delayed, but officials said they would not affect ongoing programs.

Small business

Hoping to apply for a small-business loan from the federal government? Not during the shutdown.

The district office of the U.S. Small Business Administration in Omaha is closed effective at noon Tuesday.

Congressional offices

Want to complain to Congress? That's going to be a little tough.

Each congressional member was allowed to choose which members of their staff to designate as "essential" and which staffers to send home.

For U.S. Rep. Lee Terry of Omaha, that means there is no one to answer telephones or respond to emails. Terry sent everybody home except his chief of staff and his legislative policy wonk. Even Terry's press guy, Larry Farnsworth, went home.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., plans to keep his Washington and Lincoln offices open with a skeleton crew. He even plans to pitch in answering the phones himself.

But Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, will close his offices and furlough all but a small number of his aides.

No weather worries

The men and the women of the National Weather Service are still standing guard against inclement weather. They are among the government workers deemed "essential services."

"All across the whole country — 24-7 — the National Weather Service is still on duty," said Jim Meyer, the meteorologist in charge at the Omaha office.

Still looking for a few good men and women

If you want to join the Army, Navy or Marines, go for it.

Recruiting offices are open.

A One-Way Ticket?

Looking for a break from the nonstop cycle of government gridlock?

Have no fear, a passport is near.

The U.S. Department of State issued a memo today, saying they will continue to process all passport applications.

That means you can book an appointment at the U.S. Post Office and get a new passport in less than a month.

How did we get here? What are they fighting over? You've got questions. We've got answers. Check out the interactive below to get up to speed on the current budget battle in Congress.

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