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For Valley residents, impact to be mixed



Published: Tue, October 1, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

Staff report

YOUNGSTOWN

If the money stops, the mail still moves and the military still reports to work, and other contingencies are in place to fulfill many other government obligations.

The U.S. Postal Service will fulfill its motto of service under all conditions, with mail delivery and post office hours remaining unchanged despite a government shutdown. That’s because the postal service is funded entirely by postage fees and gets no tax dollars, said Dave VanAllen, a USPS spokesman in Cleveland.

“We’re a self-funded independent agency” of the executive branch of the federal government, he said.

The federal courts, which derive funds from filing fees, announced they would remain open for about 10 business days and reassess the situation on or about Oct. 15. All court proceedings and deadlines will remain in effect as scheduled until further notice.

Youngstown’s federal bankruptcy court is at 10 E. Commerce St., and its federal district court is at 125 Market St.

At the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio, about half of the employees would be furloughed, and most of those furloughed would be those performing civil and administrative functions, said Mike Tobin, a Cleveland-based spokesman for that office. However, assistant U.S. attorneys still would have to appear in court as required by federal judges. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, which prosecutes federal criminal cases, has offices in Cleveland, Akron, Toledo and Youngstown.

Social Security and IRS

At the Social Security Administration, Social Security and Supplemental Security Income payments to beneficiaries would continue unchanged, online services would continue to function, and field offices would remain open with limited services. However, no new or replacement Social Security cards or replacement Medicare cards would be issued.

Social Security field offices operate at 354 E. Federal St. in Youngstown and 258 E. Market St. in Warren.

“Our agency’s policy is not to speculate on what-ifs,” said Jennifer Jenkins, a Columbus-based IRS field media-relations specialist.

However, a contingency plan issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury outlines what would happen at the IRS: “IRS would halt nonautomated collections and tax-processing activities, but would continue activities necessary for the protection of government property,” such as computer functions necessary to prevent data loss and criminal law enforcement.

“The IRS would halt taxpayer services, such as responding to taxpayer questions, including telephone customer-service functions.”

Social services and health

The Mahoning County Department of Job and Family Services and its Child Support Enforcement Agency will be open for business for the duration of any federal government shutdown, and no staff there will be laid off, said Robert E. Bush Jr., county JFS director.

“Our programming and benefit packages to the public remain the same,” said Bush, whose agency administers state and federally funded benefit and entitlement programs.

As to whether benefit checks and food-card allotments will still be delivered in full and on time to recipients, Bush said: “That’s electronically done out of Columbus, but I don’t anticipate any disruption in that.”

Mahoning County Women, Infants and Children program will not be hurt for a month, said Fawn Allison, director.

The WIC program will be hurt in the long term, but Ohio has a contingency plan that includes funds that will keep the program operating at least through October, Allison said. The Mahoning County WIC program has about 5,100 monthly participants — infants; children; and pregnant, postpartum and breast-feeding women, she said.

The budget of One Health Ohio, which has clinics in Youngstown, Warren and Alliance, is OK through the end of the year, said Dr. Ronald Dwinnells, chief executive officer. One Health Ohio is partially supported financially by a health grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration. One Health Ohio’s facilities are not government clinics nor are they free clinics, Dwinnells said.

Air base personnel

About 400 civilian employees at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station were to be laid off today if the federal government shut down, said Maj. Brent Davis, public information officer for the 910th Airlift Wing.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said that in the event of the absence of federal funding beyond fiscal 2013, which ended at midnight Monday, a large number of civilian employees and contractors likely would be immediately furloughed temporarily.

Even if the government runs out of money, military personnel will report to work as normal. This includes active-duty personnel and reserve component personnel on active Guard or reserve status. The Department of Defense also can maintain police, fire and emergency medical protection. These activities and some others are protected from stoppage, Hagel said.

Other DOD civilians were to be placed on emergency, no-notice, nonpay furloughs. They would be required to report to work on today to receive their furlough notice, he said.

Job training, housing

Bert Cene, director of the Mahoning-Columbiana Training Association, which provides free employment-related services to job seekers and employers, said he isn’t yet clear about what a shutdown could mean for his organization and others throughout the state.

The MCTA, which also runs the area’s One Stop career service center, receives a large portion of its funding through the Federal Workforce Investment Act. Those federal funds are administered through the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Office of Workforce Development.

There are 20 local workforce development districts throughout the state that could be affected.

According to the Ohio Legislative Services Committee, Ohio’s federal WIA allocation was $93.6 million in fiscal year 2013, which ended in June. Of that, about $79.6 million was disbursed among the state’s 20 districts, including the MCTA.

Cene said funds already had been appropriated from October through June 2014, but there remained uncertainty over whether the U.S. Department of Labor would refrain from allocating them to state agencies such as ODJFS.

“If funding is delayed, we would utilize any existing funds we could, but if it was a prolonged delay, the worst-case scenario is we would have to curtail some operations,” Cene said. “At some point, this will be detrimental to everyone and we’re developing a short-term strategy to deal with it. There could be significant impact to workforce development.”

The state’s housing markets could be severely affected as well, said Thomas J. Williams, president of the Ohio Association of Realtors, who also works at Northwood Realty in Youngstown.

Low- to moderate-income and first-time homebuyers could see their applications for government-backed mortgages delayed. The Federal Housing Administration will stop processing new requests during a shutdown. The FHA loans have been a boon in Ohio and across the nation because they require lower down payments and have lower interest rates.

“It could have a huge effect, not just in the Youngstown-Warren area, but throughout the whole state,” Williams said. “If the shutdown happens and they stop processing those loans, it could affect thousands that rely on them as a major part of financing.”

Economic development, housing and city restoration projects would cease in a shutdown as well. Brownfield restoration, community development block grants and other initiatives would stop. All programs under the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development are expected to be negatively impacted by a government shutdown.

At the same time, more than 1,000 small-business loans could be delayed every week because the U.S. Small Business Administration would be forced to stop certain loan programs.

Higher education

Ron Cole, Youngstown State University spokesman, and Ann Koon, Eastern Gateway Community College spokeswoman, aren’t expecting to see an impact from a government shutdown.

“The students all received their Pell grants already,” Koon said.

James Reinhard, Youngstown City Schools treasurer, said whether a government shutdown affects the school district would depend on how long it lasts.

“If it lasts a couple of days or a couple of weeks, I would say it probably wouldn’t be a factor,” he said.

If it goes on for a couple of months, though, the district might have to transfer money from other funds to make payroll.

The two largest sources of revenue for the district come from the state and from county tax receipts, but it receives between $6 million and $7 million annually from the federal government in Title I money for economically disadvantaged students and about $2 million annually in federal funds for disabled students.

“My experience with government shutdowns is they usually don’t happen and if they do happen they usually last just a few days,” Reinhard said.

Contributors: Staff writers William K. Alcorn, Jamison Cocklin, Peter H. Milliken, David Skolnick and Denise Dick


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