Impacts of Lengthy Government Shutdown Being Felt in Unforeseen Ways

Posted on: October 11th, 2013 by NADO Admin

As the government shutdown closes out its second week, its effects are starting to be felt across many sectors important to regional development organizations, including agriculture, transportation, and Area Agencies on Aging. The shutdown has caused most federal government agencies to suspend updating their websites or make them unavailable entirely. This prevents access of public information and periodic reports that are important to industry transactions. For example, monthly employment reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://bls NULL.gov/) and US Census (http://www NULL.census NULL.gov/) and Department of Commerce’s (http://www NULL.commerce NULL.gov/) monthly construction and factor order reports are not available.

For the agriculture sector (http://www NULL.usda NULL.gov/fundinglapse NULL.htm), the shutdown may have lasting impacts far beyond the government’s reopening. In the near term, low- and moderate-income homebuyers who have applied for mortgages guaranteed or made directly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Housing Service are unable to close because there is no USDA rural housing staff working at local levels to approve the loans. Farmers waiting for agricultural federal support programs face similar problems as well. Farmers who rely on USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Services reports on up to date information for specific commodity demand and supply, and exports and prices are also out of luck. Farmers use these reports to price their crops, decide which crops to grow and when to sell them, as well to track cattle prices. Unfortunately, at this time these reports are not being produced and previous reports are no longer accessible. Additionally, the government shutdown restricts USDA from extending new loans to farmers, signing up acreages for government programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program or receiving government checks for programs they have already enrolled in. Additional information can be found here (http://abcnews NULL.go NULL.com/US/wireStory/shutdown-spawns-vacuum-farm-market-information-20490250) and here (http://www NULL.dailyyonder NULL.com/usda-housing-programs-grind-halt/2013/10/08/6846).

At the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) (http://www NULL.dot NULL.gov/) many large transportation projects are on hold. This is not due to widespread furloughs for DOT employees –the Highway Trust Fund is not affected by the lapse in government appropriations and pays for highway employees, as well as thousands more are deemed essential because of their importance in ensuring our safety – but rather because the interagency collaborators at the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (http://www NULL.achp NULL.gov/), the Army Corps of Engineers (http://www NULL.usace NULL.army NULL.mil/), the EPA (http://epa NULL.gov/) and the US Fish and Wildlife Services (http://www NULL.doi NULL.gov/index NULL.cfm) are unable to make recommendations and approve the projects as required by law. For example, with 90 percent of EPA’s staff furloughed due to the shutdown, the Agency’s approval process has slowed or halted on its more than 100 projects awaiting environmental impact approval (http://www NULL.environment NULL.fhwa NULL.dot NULL.gov/projdev/active_eis NULL.asp) throughout the country.

The shutdown is also affecting seniors as funding has lapsed for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging (AOA) (http://www NULL.aoa NULL.gov/), which provides services to help frail or vulnerable seniors stay healthy and live as independently as possible in their homes and communities, thus avoiding more costly nursing home care. According to a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (http://www NULL.n4a NULL.org/), Area Agencies on Aging that rely more heavily on AOA’s funding to support its operation are having to furlough its staff and/or seek additional state or charitable donations to patch the funding hole. The survey also found the number of AAA’s in this dire position will increase as the shutdown continues, ultimately placing more seniors at risk of losing these important services. The survey’s press release can be found here (http://www NULL.n4a NULL.org/pdf/Shutdown_Survey_Press_Release_10 NULL.10 NULL.13_Final NULL.pdf).

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