What happens to Utah when the government shuts down?

Friday , January 19, 2018 - 2:54 PM2 comments

ANNE CHRISTNOVICH, Standard-Examiner Staff

UPDATE: At midnight EST, the U.S. government shut down, as Congress failed to pass a spending bill. Last-minute negotiation attempts crumbled soon after Senate Democrats blocked a four-week stopgap extension in a late-night vote Friday.

Which services and public agencies will halt in Ogden and surrounding Northern Utah during a government shutdown? And how will that affect daily life?

If you haven’t been following the goings-on in Washington, D.C., Congress is supposed to pass a short-term spending bill by midnight Friday. If they don’t, it means hundreds of thousands of federal employees will be forced to take unpaid time off and some government operations would grind to a halt. 

Northern Utah has Hill Air Force Base, the U.S. Forest Service and several IRS buildings, among other government services, so a shutdown would mean thousands of workers would suddenly be without pay for an unknown stretch of time. While the nationwide economic impacts don’t seem to be long-lasting, it creates immediate hardship for federal employees who don’t know when their next paycheck will come.

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According to comments made by Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney on Friday morning, the following operations would continue, even if the deadline passes without approval of a short-term spending bill: 

(Note: list compiled from NPR reporting.)

Social Security: Checks would still be mailed. 

Mail delivery: Services will continue.

Air travel: Security, air traffic control and customs and border patrols will continue

Military, specifically Hill Air Force Base: Active-duty military members will remain on the job, but that doesn’t mean everyone at Hill Air Force Base will be heading to work after the shutdown. 

In an email statement from HAFB spokesman Micah Garbarino, he said if a shutdown occurs, nearly 13,000 civilian employees would report to work on Monday to get instructions to conduct “an orderly shutdown of operations.”

He did not say how many employees might be furloughed but said “some will be excepted, based on mission requirements.” Those decisions are made by the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Defense and service commanders.

Garbarino wrote that Hill remains “optimistic that we will have a resolution and avoid a government shutdown” and outlined the immediate consequences if all fails in Congress to make a deal. 

“While Hill’s nearly 6,000 military members will not be subject to furlough if the government shuts down, they will not receive pay for work performed after Jan. 19 until an appropriations bill or continuing resolution is passed,” he wrote. “This will create financial hardships for our military personnel. If the government shuts down, activities that are not expressly authorized by law, or considered necessary for safety of human life and protection of property, will be discontinued.”

He also noted that the last shutdown, in October 2013, put at risk “the safety of our Airmen and our ability to accomplish the wartime readiness mission.” Consequences included:

  • Nearly 2,700 employees out of work from Oct. 1-7 accounted for more than $34 million in lost wages. 
  • Hiring freezes were put into place. 
  • There was a delay of death gratuity payment to fallen airmen
  • Continued civilian furlough
  • Delayed military education and other training opportunities
  • Reduced medical appointments
  • Closed youth centers

Courts: Federal courts would continue to operate — for now. They have a three-week cushion of funding. 

Legislation: Just because they couldn’t pass a budget doesn’t mean they’d go home. Congress would continue to go to work to end the shutdown. 

National parks: Unlike the last shutdown, the Interior Department says it will keep national parks and other public lands "as accessible as possible." During the 2013 government halt, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert declared a state of emergency for seven Utah counties that rely on national parks for a significant amount of their revenue to operate. Herbert wired $1.67 million to the Department of Interior to keep the parks open.


As mentioned before, the Internal Revenue Service, which has a headquarters in Ogden, would mostly shut down. 

The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents federal employees, declined to comment about local fallout for the looming shutdown, but a press release posted to its website noted a few operations that halted during the 2013 shutdown. 

“...the Internal Revenue Service was unable to verify government income for banks trying to lend money to people and small businesses; the Food and Drug Administration delayed approvals of new medical products, devices, and drugs; the Environmental Protection Agency halted inspections at hazardous waste facilities, chemical facilities, and drinking water systems; and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission stopped non-emergency reactor licensing and emergency preparedness exercises.”

The news released noted that the IRS has cut back 21,000 full-time employees and lost about $900 million since 2010.

“The tax filing season opens in 11 days and the largest overhaul to the tax code in three decades needs implementation, yet 87 percent of the IRS employees would be sent home in a shutdown,” the news release notes. 


Mulvaney noted “most” federal agencies would close, including the Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency and, as mentioned, the IRS. 

The National Forest Service, which has a building in Ogden, would likely cease operations as well. But winter is the slow season for the agency, so those recreating on the Ogden Ranger District likely won't notice many changes during a shutdown.

District Ranger Sean Harwood said a federal shutdown would impact six to 12 employees in his district because the Forest Service also has fire employees working at Hill Air Force Base and at a small base in Morgan.

"It impacts everybody but me and my law enforcement officer," he said.

Only one campground in South Fork is open during the winter and it's only open to Boy Scouts for winter camping. That campground would remain accessible to the scouts.

Ski resorts like Snowbasin that operate on U.S. Forest Service wouldn't have any restrictions.

"There would be no evidence of a government shutdown at ski areas," Harwood said.

Restrooms around Pineview Reservoir would be closed, which would mostly impact those anglers who ice fish.

"I really don’t see the public noticing the shutdown much," Harwood said. "We don’t have a lot of snow, so even snowmobiling in the area has been very light this year."

A federal shutdown, however, could setback planning at the Ogden Ranger District. Year-round employees typically spend the winter months preparing paperwork and permits. Harwood's staff is especially focused on developing a new concessionaire contract for Pineview Reservoir since the current contract is set to expire this summer.

"We don’t want to have a gap in services there, so that’s critical," Harwood said.

Reporters Leia Larsen and Mark Shenefelt contributed to this story.

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