Federal government shutdown would cause ripples in Triangle

Staff WriterApril 8, 2011 

All eyes are on Washington, D.C., this week as lack of congressional compromise threatens to close down the federal government, furloughing federal workers.

The majority of about 11,400 federal workers in the Triangle could be sent home Friday when the government's spending authority expires.

Most of the 68,000 federal workers across the state, however, are members of the military and will continue to be paid - with at least one possible exception.

In anticipation of a shutdown, the N.C. National Guard has postponed some training drills planned for this weekend, a move that could affect thousands of soldiers. Also, Guard spokesman Maj. Robert N. Carver said, a tabletop hurricane-preparedness exercise planned for this weekend in Raleigh has been put off.

About 11,500 people serve in the N.C. National Guard. Reached at home Wednesday night, Carver could not say how many units would be affected by the postponement because most units held training last weekend. Units whose training is postponed will not be paid until the work is rescheduled and completed.

Guard leaders decided to delay the monthly training events ahead of any government shutdown because for some units there is a lot of preparation to be done.

"We don't want them to spend all that energy and all those resources and then have this happen at the last minute," Carver said.

Federal laws require certain agencies to remain open no matter what, such as those that provide national security, pay federal benefits, offer medical care, ensure food and drug safety, air traffic control, guard prisoners, conduct criminal investigations and oversee banks.

You'd still have to get your taxes in the mail by April 18, according to a Treasury Department spokeswoman, even though the IRS would not process paper-filed tax returns if they are out of work. Electronic filings will be processed and money owed to the government will still be collected.

Post offices will remain open. The U.S. Postal Service is self-funded and doesn't get tax dollars, said Postal Service spokesman Gerald McKiernan.

Other federal services would be unavailable.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, which receives 73 percent of its funding from the federal government, said a shutdown would severely affect its services.

"The state receives an average of $186,151,296 in federal grants each week," said Brad Deen, a DHHS spokesman. "Those federal dollars cover programs and services ranging from health care for the disabled in Medicaid to foster care programs to vaccinations for infants through the Division of Public Health."

Local businesses could be affected by the lack of money flowing into the state, Deen said, because "recipients of federal food and nutrition benefits, formerly known as food stamps, spend $45 million each week in North Carolina grocery stores."

Federal court cases would be delayed. National parks such as the Blue Ridge Parkway and the lighthouses at the beach would be closed.

Staff writer Martha Quillin, Fred Clasen-Kelly of The Charlotte Observer and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

leah.friedman@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4546

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