What to expect in Pennsylvania if the federal government shuts down

A federal government shutdown could become reality this weekend, potentially affecting Pennsylvanians in a variety of ways.

With lawmakers in Washington, D.C., unable to reach a consensus on spending, "nonessential" federal employees could be furloughed as early as next week. Many "essential" employees would be called to work without pay until an agreement is reached.

Here are just a few things that will, and won't, be affected if Congress fails to make a deal.

How does a government shutdown affect food stamps?

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP and formerly referred to as food stamps, should continue for weeks at minimum. These benefits should be provided through at least October even in the event of a government shutdown, according to Abbie Malloy with First Focus on Children.

Malloy, who serves as director of health, nutrition and environmental policy with her national organization, said a special program for mothers and young children could be affected much sooner.

Best known as WIC, this benefit offers free fruits and vegetables to qualifying individuals. More than 6.3 million participate nationwide, Malloy said.

"It's unbelievably important," she added.

"It's a major lifeline for folks, especially kids that dont have access to healthy foods. Many families can't afford nutritious foods."

Barry Ciccocioppo, communications director for the Pennsylvania Department of Health, said the 178,254 Pennsylvanians receiving food through WIC should expect continued benefits, at least in the short term.

"We understand that the potential of a federal government shutdown leaves everyone who relies on these services uneasy," Ciccocioppo wrote in an email to the USA TODAY Network on Wednesday. "We received additional direction from the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) late this afternoon that would allow WIC recipients to continue receiving benefits beyond the start of the new fiscal year."

Government shutdown updates: Latest news on odds of a government shutdown. How it affects you

How does a government shutdown affect food inspections?

Though Food and Drug Administration inspections and other work of the U.S. Department of Agriculture would continue amid a shutdown, others would be halted.

Pennsylvania Farm Bureau federal affairs specialist Bailey Thumm said mandatory furloughs would hit rural development offices, county agencies and other services related for rural America. Farm Service Agency loans and National Resources Conservation Service assistance for manure, water runoff and pest management could be halted.

"We really need Congress to step up and make sure ag appropriations are passed," Thumm said, noting that the 2023 Farm Bill also has yet to be adopted.

Pest management and other programs through the U.S. Department of Agriculture could be hindered by a looming federal government shutdown.
Pest management and other programs through the U.S. Department of Agriculture could be hindered by a looming federal government shutdown.

How does a government shutdown affect schools?

School districts should be OK amid a potential government shutdown. Susan Spicka, executive director for Education Voters of Pennsylvania, said 43% of school funding comes from state government, with most of the rest derived from local taxes and only a small amount coming from the federal government.

"My sense is that there would not be any cash-flow issues for school districts right away," Spicka said, "if at all."

How does a government shutdown affect national parks?

The prospective shutdown would have some degree of impact on parks and recreation in Pennsylvania.

As reported by USA TODAY, some previous shutdowns have led to national parks remaining open without staff to maintain them. Other shutdowns have resulted in national parks temporarily closing entirely.

Wesley Robinson, press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, confirmed that the commonwealth's state-run parks will be unaffected.

In addition to the 19 federally managed national park service sites in Pennsylvania, there are 124 state-run parks. They comprise more than 300,000 acres.

Bruce Siwy is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network's Pennsylvania state capital bureau. He can be reached at bsiwy@gannett.com or on Twitter at @BruceSiwy.

This article originally appeared on York Daily Record: What happens if the government shuts down? Pennsylvania impact