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Columbia agencies dealing with federal government shutdown

Tuesday, October 1, 2013 | 11:57 a.m. CDT; updated 6:10 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Columbia College and MU Air Force ROTC students perform a formal retreat the same day the federal government announced it would not continue financial assistance to military students during the government shutdown.

The Missourian has provided updated information about which local agencies are affected by the federal government shutdown.

Head Start

Head Start is still up and running, said Darin Preis, executive director of Central Missouri Community Action. Although Head Start has a federal contract, the Administration for Children & Families appropriated funds for the program last year. Preis said the threat to Head Start would be from a long-term government shutdown, but he doesn't think the shutdown will last very long.

U.S. Geological Survey

The Columbia Environmental Research Center, a U.S. Geological Survey research facility, is closed until a budget or continuing resolution is passed, according to a sign on the building's door. The U.S. Geological Survey’s website is also unavailable. "Only websites necessary to protect lives and property will be maintained," according to website’s landing page.

MU Veterans Center

The MU Veterans Center will remain open, director Carol Fleisher said. The center is funded through MU, so it will not be affected by the shutdown.

Tuition assistance, or financial aid to some veterans, will be stopped for classes starting on or after Oct. 1, according to an email Fleisher received from GoArmyEd. All soldier accounts will be on hold, and new accounts will not be processed until after the shutdown. Classes with a start date during the government shutdown will not be processed for tuition assistance.

Fleisher said that some workers in the regional Veterans Affairs Office in St. Louis have been furloughed and that processing for GI Bill funds for recipients in the mid-Missouri area will be slower than usual.

Federal Housing Administration loans

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development's voicemail greeting, the department has closed and is unavailable to answer questions, but the Federal Housing Administration Resource Center will remain open.

Air Traffic Control

The Air Traffic Control System across the country is running as usual, said Steven Sapp, the public information specialist for Columbia Public Works. The Air Traffic Control System is funded through Oct. 31, but what would happen if the shutdown were to continue past that date is uncertain.

Mark Twain National Forest

The Mark Twain National Forest will be closed until the government reopens. According to the forest’s voicemail message, the “office is currently closed due to the furlough and lapse in federal government funding. Our office will reopen when funding is available."

MU Student Financial Aid Office

The MU Office of Student Financial Aid doesn't expect student loans to be affected by the government shutdown.

Unemployment

The Columbia Unemployment Office is open as usual.

Hunting licenses

Missouri hunting and fishing licenses will still be available through the Missouri Department of Conservation, a state-run agency.

IRS

All Internal Revenue Services offices are closed, including Jefferson City's Taxpayer Assistance Center, according to the IRS's voicemail greeting. Deadlines are not affected, and all payments should be made on time.

Social Security office

Columbia's Social Security Field Office will remain open during normal hours Tuesday. It will provide services such as applying for benefits, providing change of address or direct deposit information, and issuing or replacing Social Security and critical payments.

The office cannot replace Medicare cards or issue a proof of income letter, but those services are still available online. Although the forms to issue new or replacement Social Security cards are also available online, they will not be processed during the shutdown, according to Columbia Assistant District Manager Matt Skelton.

Information about services being provided is available online at socialsecurity.gov/shutdown.

Truman Veterans Hospital

Despite the partial government shutdown enacted Tuesday that affects about 800,000 federal employees, it's business as usual for Columbia's Truman Veterans Hospital, which serves more than 35,000 military veterans, a spokesman said.

"The reason there is no effect on Truman VA or the VA health care system is that we have a two-year appropriation," Stephen Gaither, public affairs officer, said. "We had a budget for fiscal year '13 and a budget for fiscal year '14, which started today."

The federal fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.

"We have funds through the end of September 2014," Gaither said. "It's business as usual for the veterans that we are serving."

Veterans are served not only at Columbia's veterans hospital, but also at seven clinics in the region.

"We provide services for about 37,000 veterans in mid-Missouri,” Gaither said. “That includes here in Columbia, as well as community-based outpatient clinics. We have seven of those operating right now."

Post office

The Columbia post office will remain unaffected by the government shutdown for now. Mail will be delivered as usual. It will be open for its regular operating hours, 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday and from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. All customer services are still available, including passport processing.


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