Federal shutdown would have local repercussions

April 6, 2011 3:17:26 PM PDT
While the budget battle is being fought in Washington, D.C., the impact of a shutdown would be felt in Chicago and across the nation.

National parks will close, income tax refunds and passport applications would be delayed, and the Pentagon says military members would not be paid on time.

Friday's deadline is fast approaching for a possible government shutdown. After numerous closed door meetings, negotiations are at a standstill, as lawmakers continue to lock horns over a budget deal.

Most government workers still have not been told if their jobs are considered important enough to work during a government shutdown. But many have been told, if they are on the furlough list, to turn in their Blackberries because it is illegal to work during a shutdown.

Meanwhile, military families say they can't afford not to get paid. LeEllyn Mendez Tovar spent part of Wednesday sorting items for military care packages. The military mom is volunteering for the organization Operation Support Our Troops.

But Mendez Tovar knows a care package is little comfort for all the troops who may not get paid if there is a government shutdown. Mendez Tovar's son is serving in Afghansistan.

"He has four children that he is supporting, and if the government shuts down and he doesn't get paid, I don't know what's going to happen," said Mendez Tovar.

As of now, officials say, military personnel will continue to earn money during a government shutdown but won't get paid until the shutdown ends.

"We are getting a lot of questions," said Operation Support Our Troops founder and president Deb Rickert. "We wish we had better answers."

Rickert has been on the phone non-stop taking calls from military families. The mother of two sons in the service, Rickert says most soldiers live paycheck to paycheck.

"We have a lot of families that are really, really stressed with multiple deployments," said Rickert. "I just wonder how much more our military families can take."

While military personnel will be promised income, 800,000 non-essential government employees will be furloughed, affecting every government department. National parks and most Washington, D.C., tourist attractions will be closed at the height of the tourist season.

Northbrook's Brightspark travel agency has booked several educational tours. So far, school groups are not canceling, but Brightspark has given their clients a contingency plan.

"They won't be able to walk the stairs at the Lincoln Memorial, but they'll definitely be able to stand behind a barricade or a snow fence and still take pictures," said Brightspark's Lisa Curtin.

The last government shutdown was during the Clinton administration, during a time where government didn't rely on the Internet. A 2011 shutdown means shutting down websites.

"Websites are not gonna be updated, especially those that are deemed non-essential, so we're gonna see a paralysis of the world as we know it," said Dr. Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, a political science professor at Northwestern University.

While websites will shutdown, administration officials say electronic filing with the IRS will continue and electronic refunds will go through.

Also, Social Security will not be impacted.

In Chicago, and throughout the U.S., it is likely federal courthouses can continue operations using money from court fees, but only for a short time.