NJ feels the shutdown: tax refunds, flood insurance at risk
New Jersey is bracing for the burn of a prolonged partial government shutdown, with the federal standoff on Capitol Hill now into its third week. Questions have mounted regarding the effects on tax returns, national parks, flood insurance, food stamps and even passport approvals, not to mention furloughed workers themselves.
Approximately 800,000 federal employees are impacted by the shutdown, with roughly 380,000 furloughed amid the possibility of back pay. Congress will determine whether employees receive pay for the furlough period.
Governing Magazine shows at least 5,487 federal workers in NJ are in agencies affected by the partial shutdown as of this month. Another 15,138 federal workers in NJ are within agencies that have 'appropriations enacted' for 2019.
During this partial shutdown the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has retained about 12.5% of its workforce, or 9,946 of almost 80,000 employees, according to its contingency plan. The IRS continues to process returns and will accept payments, but will not be processing refunds.
Despite massive changes to the system for the 2018 tax year, taxpayer questions sent to the IRS during the shutdown also will remain unanswered. Taxpayers can file for an extension on taxes, but for money owed the deadline remains April 15.
The Small Business Administration, a federal agency that gives entrepreneurs loans, stopped issuing new loan approvals on Dec. 21.
The National Flood Insurance Program has announced it is not longer renew or issue policies during the shutdown.
As of January 6, passport services remain unaffected. The U.S. Department of State says in an online notice that processing times remain the same: 4-6 weeks for routine service and 2-3 weeks for expedited service.
The National Park Service has warned that "access may change without notice" to each location amid the partial shutdown. Both Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty remain open. At Sandy Hook, the Gateway National Recreation Area park is open but visitor services, including restrooms, are suspended.
Across the river in Philadelphia, Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Center are closed to visitors during the federal government shutdown. The Independence Visitor Center is open, as staffed by the Independence Visitor Center Corporation.
USDA has updated its partial shutdown plan to reflect "continuation of the essential Federal activities and funding to maintain the core programs of the nutrition safety net, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Child Nutrition (CN) programs, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)."
Although SNAP is automatically renewed, it has not been allocated funding from Congress beyond January. CBS News reports $3 billion earmarked in emergency funds for SNAP distribution would not cover all of February's obligations.