Federal government threatens partial shutdown - WCIV-TV | ABC News 4 - Charleston News, Sports, Weather

Federal government threatens partial shutdown

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By: Natalie Caula
ncaula@abcnews4.com

Charleston, S.C. (WCIV) -- A partial federal government shutdown is looming as Congress still works to agree on a budget. If lawmakers don't finalize a budget by Friday at midnight, many agencies' services may be affected.

About 800,000 employees are expected to feel the effect. College of Charleston Economics professor Frank Hefner says there is no playbook that maps out which agencies would continue receiving funds in the event of a partial government shutdown.

"They can pick and chose. They can say this agency gets money while this one doesn't. This one gets paid this week, the other one gets paid in two weeks," Hefner said.

Hefner says the situation could get grim if the country starts defaulting on its loans.

"My class asked me that and I said ‘who knows CPR?' because just the mere possibility that the United States government could default on a bond is so unthinkable. Forget depression, you're talking about major financial crisis in the world," Hefner said.

But right now many are thinking on the smaller scale, wondering if they will get paychecks, including those in the military.

Essential government agencies that protect life and property, like law enforcement, will not be affected. Some "non-essential" government entities will also not be affected. FEMA's federal flood insurance program will not be interrupted along with the U.S. Post Office.

Here's a rundown of some federal agencies and the affect they may feel—

A Veterans Affairs Administration department official says they still believe there is an opportunity to avoid a government shutdown.

"But we are working to ensure that we are prepared for all possible scenarios," the department official said.

They included the following in a statement –

Thanks to advance appropriations (a two-year budget cycle), VA will continue to provide 100 percent of our health care services to enrolled Veterans through VA medical facilities across the country. Veterans' medical appointments will not be canceled or delayed in the event of a partial government-wide shut down. Advance appropriations, received from Congress, accounts for more than 80% of the VA's discretionary appropriations. While there will be a reduction in benefits staffing, VA has taken measures to ensure, in the short-term, that Veterans currently receiving VA benefits will continue to receive those payments on a timely basis and without interruption. VA will also continue to provide final resting places at our national cemeteries in the event of a partial government-wide shutdown. Some cemeteries may operate on a modified schedule. Some VA services that may be suspended in the event of a partial government-wide shut down involve answering consumer inquiries by e-mail, telephone or mail, routine recruiting, hiring and training, and fraud investigations. VA will provide a Veterans Field Guide with a more detailed analysis of the impact on benefits and services when and if a shut down occurs.

South Carolina's Department of Health and Environmental Control's (DHEC) spokesman Adam Myrick says they are still unclear which programs within the agency will be affected.

"We are really still in a waiting pattern, in a holding pattern right now," Myrick said.

The spokesman says the agency leaders are concerned about some of their contracted programs with the federal government.

"Some of the federal funding that is used in this agency to inspect or look at patient care at health care facilities, nursing homes and so on. That is something we do on essentially a contract basis with the federal government. So were not sure how those inspectors would be paid," Myrick said.

Even housing may take a hit. The Federal Housing Administration could stop insuring federal home loans. Last year, with a shaky housing market, the agency gave out 20 percent of the country's home lending.

"It would possibly delay the closing and if someone is buying their first home and they are ready to move in, any delay is heartbreaking to them," Charleston Trident Association of Realtors President Rob Woodul said.

The possible shutdown affecting our military

Defense Secretary Robert Gates told troops in Iraq Thursday that if the government has to shut down, their next paycheck will be for half the normal amount and that they won't get a check at all in the following pay period if the shutdown continues. Eventually, they'll get all of their back pay.

The House approved a Republican resolution to fund the military through the end of the fiscal year. But the measure also includes billions more in budget cuts and an anti-abortion provision. Democrats accused the GOP of a "cynical" move to try to use the nation's troops to advance their agenda.

A S.C. National Guard spokesman from Columbia said Thursday they would not be affected by any possible shutdown.

Joint Base Charleston is expected to house thousands this weekend for the Air Expo. Show officials say Saturday's show is expected to open at 8 A.M. Coordinators say they anticipate the show will continue.

Battle on the Hill may kill the commemoration of historic battle

The same can't be said about some Civil War 150th anniversary commemoration events happening in Charleston Tuesday. Fort Moultrie and Fort Sumter would close at midnight Friday if there's a shutdown.

National Parks Office officials say the park would be one of 394 in the country that would close.

"Visitor activities that require a permit, including public events, will not be allowed or will be canceled or postponed. Visitors using overnight concession accommodations and campgrounds will be notified and given 48 hours to make alternate arrangements. The National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and some Bureau of Land Management roads will be closed except when they are necessary as thruways," Department of Interior Press Secretary Kendra Barkoff said.

More agencies are expected to reveal their plans on closures if Congress doesn't agree on a budget by Friday night.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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