Government Shutdown Hits NJ: What Is and Isn’t Impacted

As you've no doubt heard, the federal government is undergoing its first partial shutdown in 17 years, and people are righteously angry about it. While you may have been expecting a disaster of biblical proportions — rioting in the streets, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria — so far things have been pretty quiet. But if the shutdown persists, the atmosphere could get ugly.

A quick refresher on what’s happening in Washington: major parts of the federal government need to be funded each year in order to operate. When Congress can’t agree on how to fund them, like today, they have to shutdown.

Congress closed up shop, so to speak, at midnight, and many federal programs are already seeing the effects of the shutdown. Here’s a roundup of what’s happening in New Jersey.

What’s Still Running

The regulations concerning shutdowns divide federal employees into "essential" and "non-essential" workers. Essential employees will stay on the clock, while non-essentials will be furloughed— or forced to stay home with no pay. Essential workers will have their checks delayed, however.

Essential federal employees include those working in national security, public safety, or programs written into permanent law. Air traffic control, law enforcement, emergency medical care and emergency and disaster assistance are among the essential services still being funded. National Weather Service meteorologists, who have posts throughout the state, will also continue working. Mail will continue to be delivered, and New Jersey’s two federal prisons will continue operating.

What’s Not

All National Parks throughout the country are closed. New Jersey is home to five national parks: The Morristown National Historical Park, the Sandy Hook Unit of the Gateway National Recreation Area, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, the Great Falls of the Passaic River and the Thomas Edison National Historical Park, home to his invention factory and laboratory.

Residents using the state’s low-income home energy assistance program, which funds heating assistance programs, could have their heat shut off. Additionally, unemployment benefits could be affected depending on the length of the shutdown. While all the state’s VA medical centers and clinics will remain open, veterans benefits could be delayed or reduced. Passports and visa applications will not be processed, and farm loans and payments will cease.

What Our Officials Say

Governor Chris Christie has yet to announce a contingency plan, but called the shutdown "a failure of everyone responsible for the system," adding that officials have been discussing these issues for months without reaching a solution. Christie released an ad early Tuesday morning touting the importance of bipartisanship, saying, his "job is to get things done for the people of this state," and that "every accomplishment we’ve had in New Jersey," from tenure reform to improving education, has been "a bipartisan accomplishment."

Representative Frank LoBiondo (R-2nd Dist.) requested his pay be suspended until "normal operations are restored." He has also furloughed staff at his offices in Mays Landing and Washington. Meanwhile, Representative Rush Holt (D-12th Dist.) lashed out at the tea party, accusing it of holding the federal government "hostage."

Want the bigger picture? The Washington Post has a comprehensive breakdown of how the shutdown works.

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