What a looming federal government shutdown would mean for Oregonians

This file photo shows Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. National parks could be impacted be a government shutdown, although the exact plan should a government shutdown begin has yet to be announced.
This file photo shows Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. National parks could be impacted be a government shutdown, although the exact plan should a government shutdown begin has yet to be announced.

A federal government shutdown looms as Congress continues to argue over a funding plan for the next fiscal year. It has until 11:59 p.m. Saturday to reach a deal.

Millions of Americans stand to be impacted, including thousands of federal employees, service members, national park visitors and potentially those reliant on government benefits.

Under a shutdown, all "non-essential" federal agencies will have to stop operations and the funding supply to federal programs would stop.

Nonessential federal workers are furloughed.

Federal workers deemed essential, such as air traffic controllers, federal prison workers and military personnel, would have to continue to work. They would not be paid until the shutdown ends.

Oregon had about 880 active-duty military personnel and 9,000 reserve members in 2021, according to the latest military demographics report. It also has hundreds of active-duty members of the U.S. Coast Guard.

The state has 28,400 federal government jobs as of August, according to the Oregon Employment Department.

"Looking at jobs at federal agencies in Oregon this time of year, and those potentially impacted by a lapse in current appropriations, there are about 7,400 federal government jobs in Oregon likely to be affected by a federal government shutdown," said Gail Krumenauer, employment economist at the OED.

Infighting continues to gridlock the U.S. House and without an agreement when the calendar turns to Oct. 1, "essential" government workers would begin working without pay while thousands more would be furloughed.

The last time the government shut down was during former President Donald Trump's administration. It lasted 35 days between December 2018 and January 2019, and was the longest in U.S. history.

Will Social Security and Medicare benefits be impacted?

Social Security recipients will continue to receive checks in the event of a government shutdown, and Medicare benefits will not be interrupted.

These benefits are considered essential services.

Will national parks and sites in Oregon be closed?

National parks could be impacted, although the exact plan should a government shutdown begin has yet to be announced by the White House or the Department of Interior.

Crater Lake is Oregon's only national park. But national historic sites and trails could also be impacted, including the Oregon Caves and the Lewis and Clark historic trail and park.

"We don’t have any updates on our contingency plan at this time," Crater Lake superintendent Craig Ackerman said Thursday.

During the 2013 shutdown, 21,300 or 86% of Park Service staff were furloughed. Some parks were closed entirely while others remained open but without staffing. A couple of states used state money to keep national parks open, including Arizona with the Grand Canyon, and then were reimbursed.

Arizona and Utah have already announced they will do that again this time, according to the Associated Press.

How is Gov. Tina Kotek preparing?

On Thursday, Gov. Tina Kotek said she has asked agencies to assess what a federal government shutdown would mean for certain programs.

Kotek said she remains optimistic about a solution but said her administration would have more details next week about the potential impact on Oregonians.

She said she was very concerned about the potential shutdown but she didn't want people to panic.

"It’s absolutely unacceptable that we have a few folks who are going to obstruct the ability of Americans to get the services that they need," Kotek added. "They need to get their stuff together and they need to figure it out. It’s really important. It’s going to impact every part of our state.”

Will Head Start stay open?


None of the Head Start programs in the state are at risk of immediately losing federal funding, confirmed Nancy Perin, executive director of the Oregon Head Start Association.

According to a statement on the Head Start of Lane County website, its grant cycle is the July 1-June 30 fiscal year, meaning it already has its funding.

"The shutdown will have no direct impact on us," the organization states on its website.

Should a shutdown stretch into November, there could potentially be closed classrooms or furloughed staff but right now OHSA doesn't foresee a direct impact on Head Start on Oct. 1, Perin said. OHSA will continue monitoring for any potential impact, she added.

There are programs in Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts and South Carolina whose grant cycles begin Oct. 1. They would be immediately impacted by a government shutdown, according to the Associated Press.

Will Oregon SNAP recipients stop receiving benefits?

There are 424,975 households made up of 704,454 people receiving federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits in Oregon, according to the Oregon Department of Human Services.

The agency is monitoring the situation and preparing for a possible shutdown, ODHS press secretary Jake Sunderland said Thursday.

A partial federal government shutdown would not impact the agency's service delivery or benefit issuances during October, he added. Oregonians receiving SNAP food and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families cash benefits or other services and support from ODHS should expect those benefits on time and as usual in October.

In the case of a federal government shutdown stretching beyond October, ODHS will work to make sure benefit recipients know if and when it might cause any changes or delays to their benefits, Sunderland said.

What about WIC?

In a briefing earlier this week, President Joe Biden warned that the shutdown would impact the nearly 7 million women and children who rely on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. Nearly half of babies born in this country are served by the program, according to the White House.  "During an extreme Republican shutdown, women and children who count on WIC would soon start being turned away at grocery store counters, with a federal contingency fund drying up after just a few days and many states left with limited WIC funds to operate the program," the administration announced.

There are 78,764 WIC recipients in Oregon, according to the White House.

On social media and on its website, the Oregon Health Authority said Oregon WIC would remain open despite a government shutdown.

Oregon WIC participants should continue using their eWIC cards to purchase food for their families at any participating grocery store or pharmacy, the program said. They also urged recipients to keep their in-person appointments and said the program would continue to enroll any eligible person interested in services.

Will a government shutdown affect air travel?

Most travel won't be impacted. Air traffic controllers and Transportation Security Administration agents are essential workers, so they'll be working but won't be paid.

Customs and Border Protection officials are also considered essential, so international travel into and out of the U.S. will continue.

What happens to the federal prison in Oregon?

The Federal Detention Center in Sheridan houses about 1,500 medium security prisoners. It will continue to operate.

Dianne Lugo covers the Oregon Legislature for the Statesman Journal. Reach her at dlugo@statesmanjournal.com or on Twitter at @diannelugo

This article originally appeared on Salem Statesman Journal: Government shutdown 2023: How would Oregon be impacted?