How the government shutdown is affecting people in Georgia

Lawmakers again failed to reach a deal to keep the federal government open.

ATLANTA — The Senate has adjourned without a deal to end a partial government shutdown as talks drag on over President Donald Trump's border wall with Mexico.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has ended the rare Saturday session hours after the Senate had opened.

The Senate isn't scheduled to meet again until Monday - Christmas Eve - for a pro forma session. The next full session of the Senate is now scheduled for this coming Thursday.

Content Continues Below

The third shutdown in less than a year could mean a tough holiday season for thousands of federal workers in Georgia and sow uncertainty for countless more who rely on government services.

TSA workers at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport are still screening passengers even though they won't be paid until a funding bill is signed.

Georgia is home to about 4 percent of the federal workforce, or more than 71,000 civilian employees, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Georgia’s nine military bases will largely be spared from the uncertainty, as well as the Atlanta headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s because Congress previously passed spending bills for the Pentagon and Department of Health and Human Services.

Key services such as Social Security checks, Medicare reimbursements and food stamps will continue to flow under a shutdown. Same for the U.S. Postal Service, which is mostly self-funded. But other agencies were bracing for limited staffing, shuttered offices and possible delays in services.

One of the largest impacts is likely to be on morale.

An estimated 800,000 federal workers nationwide won’t be paid under a federal funding lapse, and slightly more than half will be required to show up to work during a shutdown. Following previous funding lapses, Congress voted to pay those employees, but that money was not guaranteed.

“This is the time of year when people should be celebrating and relaxing, instead of being stressed because they don’t know if they are going to get furloughed or not get paid,” said Ceretta Smith, a U.S. Army veteran and president of the Local 2017 chapter of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents about 4,600 workers at Fort Gordon. “They are on pins and needles.”


Georgia impacts

The on-the-ground effect of the shutdown will likely vary throughout the state.

Most federal law enforcement officials, including FBI agents, customs agents and Bureau of Prisons correctional officers, will continue to work — but without pay. The same would go for the nation’s 53,000 Transportation Security Administration agents and thousands of air traffic controllers.

At the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center campus near Brunswick, basic training for new students will be suspended under a shutdown. Personnel will be told to remain onsite during a short funding lapse, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s contingency plans, but would eventually be sent back to their permanent duty stations under an extended shutdown.

Federal courts can keep running under funding lapses if they have revenue stored away from their fines and fees.

The U.S. Attorney's office in Atlanta would not comment Friday on what a shutdown would mean for its staff or any of its ongoing investigations, including its City Hall probe.

The funding lapse could harm farmers, who will not be able to access the U.S. Department of Agriculture's farm service centers during a shutdown. Many are also hoping for emergency funding from Congress following Hurricane Michael. Food inspections, meanwhile, will continue.

There could also be consequences for state government workers, particularly if the shutdown stretches for a long period of time. Some state employees are paid partly with federal money, and about one-third of state government spending comes from the federal government, the AJC previously reported.

Perhaps one of the most visible local impacts of the shutdown could be on national parks, since Congress could not agree on funding for the Department of Interior.

Both Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park and the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta were closed during the February government shutdown.

And even among parks that remained accessible during previous funding lapses, there were no visitor services available such as full-service restrooms and gift shops.

Charles Sellars, acting superintendent of the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in Plains, said Friday the site would be closed if the government shut down.

“Anything that we would have scheduled beyond midnight would be canceled,” he said. That includes walking tours the park holds on weekends.

This article was written by Tamar Hallerman, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution .  Staff writers Ernie  Suggs, Joshua Sharpe, Ben Brasch, Raisa Habersham and Amanda C. Coyne contributed to this article.