Wednesday, January 02, 2019

How the partial federal shutdown affects rural America

The partial shutdown of the federal government, which began Dec. 22, will soon have a bigger impact on rural Americans as federal departments that have continued operation with leftover money run out of appropriations. "Many of the departments and agencies hit by the partial shutdown, which began Dec. 22, have reached a breaking point in their ability to go on with minimal disruption. They are running out of carryover cash and time to prep checks for the mid-month pay period," Jennifer Scholtes, Caitlin Emma and Bernie Becker report for Politico.

In a statement last week, the Department of Agriculture "assured farmers that checks would continue to go out during the first week of the shutdown. But direct payments for farmers who haven’t certified production, as well as farm loans and disaster-assistance programs, will be put on hold beginning next week, and won’t start up again until the government reopens," Juliet Linderman reports for The Associated Press. "Although certain vital USDA programs will remain operational in the short term, that could change if the shutdown lasts for more than a few weeks."

Other ways the shutdown could hurt rural America: "USDA won’t be able to issue new loans for rural development or grants for housing, community facilities and utility companies," Politico reports. "Payments will stop being processed for agricultural research and education projects. Statistics routinely published on commodity and livestock production, as well as economic projections, will cease. And U.S. Forest Service work to prevent wildfires will halt, along with staffing for ranger stations and other facilities at the agency’s public recreation sites. Farmers affected by retaliatory tariffs will now have to wait until after the shutdown to receive aid if they have yet to apply for that relief."

Payments for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are guaranteed through January and school lunch programs are guaranteed through February. Payments for the Women, Infants and Children program and food distribution programs on Indian reservations will continue on a local level but without additional federal funding, Politico reports. USDA has released a list of activities that were and weren't continued after Jan. 1. Read it here.

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