While talk of the federal government shutdown raged across the Internet, most Newton County residents seemed unaffected by the machinations Tuesday.
A few of the county’s federal grants could be affected by the shutdown, but most local governments and organizations said Tuesday they were operating as usual, though some organizations are still waiting to see if any fallout will come in the following days.
County Manager John Middleton said at Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners meeting that some federal grant funding may not come in during October if the shutdown isn’t ended. He said the Newton County Sheriff’s Office’s COPS hiring grant, which comes from the U.S. Dept. of Justice, won’t be making reimbursement payments after Oct. 4.
Covington Deputy City Manager Billy Bouchillon said he didn’t know of any effects on the city’s operations.
The Newton County University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Office was operating normally, according to an employee, though some university employees in Athens were out of the office because of the shutdown. An official with the Newton County Farm Bureau didn’t know of any negative effects, though he said the farm bill is among the items being held up in discussions.
Social Security offices around the country have cut the services they’re offering, but payments will keep going out and offices will remain open and can continue to help people applying for benefits and make changes to accounts. But they cannot issue new or replacement Social Security cards, replace a Medicare card or issue a proof of income letter. Hearings for disability cases are not expected to be held during the shutdown.
Federal funding for the WIC program (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) has been cut off, but the program is administered by states, and state spokeswoman Nancy Nydam said, "Georgia WIC is operating business as usual. The Georgia Department of Public Health and Georgia WIC are working on steps to keep WIC operating for as long as possible." WIC is administered locally through the Newton County Health Dept.
Passport processing at the Newton County Judicial Center was not affected, according to Superior Court Clerk Linda Hays.
National parks and recreation areas have or are being shut down, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park and the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area would be included in the shuttering.
The state has multiple other national parks, including Ocmulgee National Monument, the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, Jimmy Carter National Historic Site, Fort Pulaski National Monument, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, and the Cumberland Island National Seashore. Local media confirmed all of the above sites are closed; even the parts of the Appalachian Trail overseen by the National Park Service have been closed.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is not doing inspections, but it’s unclear if that will delay the current investigation into a recent fall at the Baxter International worksite on the Newton/Walton county line.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will stop its seasonal flu program and has a "significantly reduced capacity to respond to outbreak investigations," according to multiple media outlets.
Spokesman Sam Hall said Tuesday that all Georgia Department of Labor career centers will be open during their normal business hours, and the shutdown won’t affect state unemployment insurance benefits or federal emergency unemployment compensation, according to the Associated Press. Labor department officials say people are encouraged to keep appointments with department staff, and attend scheduled workshops.
The Federal Housing Administration, which insures about 15 percent of new loans for home purchases, will approve fewer loans for its client base — borrowers with low-to-moderate income — because of reduced staff, according to the Associated Press. The agency will focus on single-family homes during the shutdown, setting aside loan applications for multi-family dwellings. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac won’t be affected.
The Washington Post reported that Pell Grants and Direct Student Loans could be affected, because of a shortage of staff to process payments, if the shutdown is prolonged; more than 14 million students receive some form of federal student aid. Several federal websites had limited functionality because of the shutdown, and Georgia Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson both had messages on their websites warning that their offices would be performing "very limited, necessary services.’’