What You Need To Know About The Ongoing Government Shutdown
As the shutdown, which began on December 22, 2018, drags on, I believe the impact is being felt by American families, businesses and communities. The new House Majority has passed legislation to reopen the government with the bipartisan funding levels and language that was approved by Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and received overwhelming bipartisan support in December 2018, before President Trump withdrew his support for the legislation. So far, the new Senate has yet to act on the House-passed legislation.
I am sending this letter to provide the constituents of the 9th District with information about how the shutdown may affect you. For any specific questions you have that are not answered here, please contact my District Office staff at 901-544-4131.
My annual District Issues meeting, scheduled for Friday, January 18, 2019 from 9 am – 11 am CT in my office, located at 167 N. Main Street, Suite 369, will take place even if the shutdown is still in effect. However, if necessary due to the shutdown, the meeting will be moved to the Hall of Mayors, located at 125 N. Main Street. Changes will be posted on my website at cohen.house.gov or you may call my office for updates.
Federal Departments Closed
There are nine federal departments affected by the shutdown: Homeland Security, Treasury, Agriculture, Interior, Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Justice, Commerce, Transportation, and State. In addition, numerous critical smaller independent agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Small Business Administration, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are affected.
Effect on Federal Employees
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has posted detailed information for impacted federal employees which can be found here.
Paycheck: Federal employees who are affected by the shutdown, whether they are classified as furloughed or essential, will not receive their regular paycheck on January 11.
Unemployment for Furloughed Federal Employees: The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development determines weekly benefit amounts for eligible individuals. According to OPM, if an individual receives unemployment benefits and then is retroactively paid for furloughed time, the individual may be required to return any unemployment benefits received. You can find more commonly asked questions and answers here.
Looking for another job while furloughed: While on furlough, an individual remains an employee of the Federal Government. Before looking for outside employment, OPM recommends reviewing all applicable rules and standards of ethical conduct, both executive branch-wide as well as agency-specific, and consult with agency-specific ethics officials.
Health and Life insurance Coverage: OPM guidance can be found here.
Additional information for federal employees can be found here.
Effect on Food Assistance
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, is able to provide benefits for recipients through February.
This week, I joined my colleagues in sending a letter to US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue demanding more information on the USDA plan for SNAP benefits if the shutdown continues.
Effect on Tax Refunds
According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), approximately 88% of the staff is furloughed.
According to an issue report published by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, walk-in taxpayer assistance centers and all taxpayer customer service are unavailable during the shutdown, which impacts issuing refunds, updating tax forms or answering phone help lines.
On January 8, 2019, the IRS announced that it will begin to process tax returns beginning on January 28, 2019 and provide refunds to taxpayers as scheduled.
This week, I joined my colleagues in sending a letter to President Trump urging that the administration immediately address the looming crisis that the government shutdown poses for American families who depend on the IRS to process tax returns promptly.
Effect on Homebuyers and Small Businesses
According to an issue report published by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) is not processing loans and mortgage approvals.
According to a report published by the Appropriations Committee, the Small Business Administration has halted its role in the federal contracting process. It has also stopped approving loan assistance and guarantee applications from commercial banks and small businesses.
Effect on National Parks & Smithsonian
According to the National Park Service, the suspension on services for visitors such as visitor centers, interpretative programs and restrooms will be lifted due to the utilization of entrance, camping, parking and other fees to pay for expanded operations. Please note that, according to a report published by the Appropriations Committee, curtailed law enforcement staffing may be placing visitors’ safety at risk.
According to the Smithsonian Institution, all Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo are closed to tourists and visitors.
Effect on Travel
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents and air traffic controllers are working hard without pay throughout the government shutdown to ensure continued safety of air travel. I am grateful for the work of these individuals in Memphis and around the country as they continue to do this difficult and often underappreciated job.
No changes are expected to the following benefits and services:
- Social Security benefits
- Medicare and Medicaid benefits
- Veterans benefits
- Mail deliveries by the U.S. Postal Service
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will renew and issue new flood insurance policies.
More information may be found in the House Appropriations Committee Fact Sheet.
This information is subject to change. For the latest information, please visit https://cohen.house.gov/ or call my office at 901-544-4131 for information or assistance.
As always, I remain
Member of Congress