Floyd County farmers, schools and other entities that depend on federal funds got some early reassurances about the government shutdown from a former Georgia governor.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue issued a comprehensive directive Friday on how the department would function until Congress passes a budget:
The Food Safety and Inspection Service would continue working to ensure meat, poultry and egg products are safe as well as inspect food being slaughtered and processed for humans.
They’ll also still ensure imported products do not bring pests or diseases into the U.S. and furloughed personnel would come back to work immediately in the event of an outbreak.
Also, federal functions to maintain the core programs of the nutrition safety net — including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Child Nutrition Programs and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) — would continue.
Perdue said those all have funding available to operate through February, and many have funds to continue operations through March, without additional appropriation.
Smaller discretionary programs would use funds already allocated, he said.
That means food already purchased for the Emergency Food Assistance Program, the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, child nutrition programs and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program would be delivered to program operators.
The Rural Development division would continue accounting for and processing customers’ funds, as well as making sure people with single family housing loans through RD are able to make their monthly payments on time. Organizations with USDA Rural Development loans also will still be able to make their payments and will be held accountable for making on-time loan payments.
The Risk Management Agency would continue to service the federal crop insurance program and the Approved Insurance Providers office would stay open, with agents and loss adjusters fully available.
The U.S. Forest Service’s emergency functions would continue to operate — including firefighters and law enforcement officers, which can include security for radio communications, protection of federal lands and infrastructure operations.
The Agricultural Marketing Service’s commodity procurement, grading and inspection, cotton-classing, Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act program and inspection and weighing services would also remain intact.
Funds ran out at midnight Friday, leaving 48 hours before the most dramatic effect — the furloughing of nearly a million federal employees — goes into effect.
As in shutdowns past, federal services were carved into two categories — essential and non-essential — with the former set to carry on as normal. In that category, the mail will be delivered and Social Security checks still go out, the air traffic control system stays up and running, as do the FBI, Customs and Border Protection and veterans hospitals.
Still, there were plenty of inconveniences to irk American taxpayers.
Yet congressional Republicans and Democrats appeared no closer to settling their differences over immigration policy and striking an agreement to fund the government.
The longer the shutdown lasts, the worse the effects will be. Almost half the 2 million civilian federal workers will be barred from doing their jobs if the shutdown extends into Monday.
That’ll put on hold a swath of government functions, from the processing of new veterans benefits claims to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s support for the government’s annual seasonal flu program. At the Internal Revenue Service, more than half of the 80,565 employees will be barred from working just as tax filing season is beginning and the agency is dealing with the sweeping changes made by the new GOP tax law.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.