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The shutdown trickles down to area: While post office, Social Security offices are open, some federal functions impacted

(Washington Post photo)

BEMIDJI -- While some essential services remain open, the partial federal government shutdown has still resulted in local offices closing until Congress and the White House can reach a deal.

The partial shutdown began Saturday because of a lapse in funding meant to keep the federal government in operation. The shutdown, affecting about 25 percent of the government, with approximately 800,000 federal workers expected to be affected during the holiday season.

The shutdown has been largely caused by a failure on Congress to agree on $5 billion in funding President Donald Trump has demanded for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Recently, Trump said the there’s no firm date on when a resolution will happen, The Washington Post reported.

“I can’t tell you when the government’s going to be open,” Trump said Tuesday. “I can tell you it’s not going to be open until we have a wall or fence, whatever they’d like to call it.”

Some local offices for federal departments are remaining fully open during the shutdown, though. The Bemidji Social Security Office, located at 2900 Hannah Ave. NW is open, as is the U.S. Post Office at 401 Irvine Ave. NW, according to representatives. Additionally, there’s no shutdown impacts from the Federal Aviation Administration affecting the Bemidji Regional Airport.

However, the Department of the Interior, which oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, is one of the agencies impacted by the federal shutdown. According to a contingency plan on the bureau’s website, operational and administrative related to contract or grant administration can’t continue when there’s a lapse in funding.

As a result, bureau offices in Bemidji, located at 522 Minnesota Ave. NW, are closed. Another agency with a Bemidji office housed in the same downtown federal building as the bureau is Indian Health Services. In the case of the shutdown, IHS has been partially closed.

According to its website, the IHS is continuing to provide direct clinical health care services, such as referrals for contracted services. The IHS can also perform “development, issuance, oversight and other functions to meet immediate needs of patients, medical staff and medical facilities,” the website said.

However, the agency is unable to operate administratively or provide the majority of funds to tribes and Urban Health programs.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which also has a Bemidji office at 3217 Bemidji Ave. N, is partially shut down, too. Some of USDA activities that will continue include the inspection of meat, poultry grain and other commodities, as well as forest service law enforcement and care for animals and agricultural infrastructure, the department said.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Child Nutrition Program benefits, along with some farm payments such as market assistance loans, market facilitation payments and disaster assistance programs, will also be available during the shutdown.

However, those services not continuing during a shutdown are provisions of new rural development loans and grants for housing, community facilities, utilities and businesses, new timber sales, agricultural economic statistical reports, departmental and administrative oversight and audits, officials said.

Mick Mulvaney, acting chief of staff and director of the Office of Management and Budget, has said "it's very possible" the shutdown will extend into the new year, reported The Washington Post.

Jeff Stein of The Washington Post contributed to this report.

Matthew Liedke

Matthew Liedke is the city, county and state government reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He also covers business, politics and financial news.

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