WASHINGTON — Don’t plan on visiting Acadia National Park Saturday if the budget standoff between House Republicans and Senate Democrats and President Obama shuts down the federal government.

Maine’s premier national park would be just one of the federal sites and services affected if the looming shutdown actually occurs at midnight Friday.

In a shutdown, “non-essential” federal employees would be told to stay home. People couldn’t apply for federal home and business loans or complete applications that are in progress. Income tax returns sent by mail would not be processed, refunds could be delayed and passport and visa applications would be put on hold.

Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and veterans’ benefits would still be paid, and Veterans’ Administration clinics and hospitals, like VA Togus, would remain open. The Post Office would deliver mail and U.S. military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Iraq would continue.

There are 11,132 non-postal federal employees in Maine, according to the Washington-area-based National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, a nonprofit advocacy association.

It’s hard to say how many Maine non-postal federal employees would be off work during a federal shutdown, said Daniel Adcock, the association’s legislative director. Nationally, it’s estimated that about 800,000 of the roughly 2.4 million federal employees would be deemed “non-essential” and would not report to work during a shutdown, Adcock said.

There are 2,896 postal workers in Maine who would not be affected by a federal shutdown because the Post Office is funded through revenues generated by selling postage and other products, not directly through taxpayer dollars.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has urged the Senate’s Republican and Democratic leaders to help settle the impasse over a final spending bill for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 11. She has said a federal shutdown would be a “colossal failure” by Congress – where majority House Republicans are facing off with majority Senate Democrats – and the White House.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st, says a government shutdown would be bad for business, nationally and in Maine, and she too is calling on congressional leaders to work out a compromise. But Pingree says “there is a real chance” that Mainers will awake Saturday to find a shuttered federal government, so the Maine Democrat has posted a shutdown information sheet on her web page, Pingree.House.gov.

“If congressional leaders fail and the government ends up shutting down on Saturday, it is going to have a real impact on people in Maine, from businesses trying to get SBA (Small Business Administration) loans to seniors who have just qualified for Social Security and want to apply.  That unpredictability is bad for people and bad for our economy,” Pingree said.

Collins, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said a shutdown would create hardships for soldiers and their families.

“If compromise on a funding bill is not reached by this Friday, troops in the field will be told to continue to carry out their missions serving their country, but their pay would be delayed and could create considerable hardship for them and their families back home,” Collins said. “This to me is an unconscionable outcome.”

White House officials have said if a shutdown occurs, military personnel would receive just one week’s pay in their next checks, rather than the normal two weeks allotment.

The National Association of State Budget Officers has said that a brief federal shutdown – one lasting anywhere from a few days to several weeks – would be “inconvenient” but have only a “minimal” effect on states’ finances.

“While states rely on federal government funds to help fund a large number of state programs, these funds are often not transferred, or drawn down, on a daily basis,” the association said in a recent paper on how a shutdown would affect states. However, “A longer term shutdown could create more significant problems for states.”

For one thing, transportation and other infrastructure projects relying on federal funding could be delayed, the association said.

A federal shutdown would delay the IRS from carrying out tax audits, good news for some. But, Pingree warned, don’t think that lets Mainers off the hook when it comes to meeting this year’s April 18 filing deadline. Tax returns still must be postmarked by midnight, April 18, Pingree said.

Taxpayers will have three extra days because Emancipation Day, a holiday observed in the District of Columbia, falls this year on Friday, April 15.



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