State feels little effect from government shutdown

DOVER — Day five of the federal government’s shutdown came and went on Wednesday. In the wake of Christmas, some residents may start asking themselves: ‘how does this affect me?”

Though elusive, the answer seems to be: ‘very little at the moment.’

The most immediate consequences have been felt at the state’s National Parks. Parks operated by the federal government like Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Smyrna and Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Milton will be unstaffed until further notice. Post on several of the parks’ social media sites reads: “Due to the federal government shutdown, this account will not be active until further notice.”

At Bombay Hook, the auto tour route will remain open, but the visitor center and restrooms will be closed.

According to the National Park Service, Delaware has had 2,444 acres transferred by federal lands to parks since 1948.

Generally speaking, Delaware remains fairly insulated against the threats posed by federal government shutdowns. Wallet Hub — an Online personal finance consultancy — released a study during the January federal shutdown that claimed Delaware was among the state’s least affected by these types of funding lapses.

Wallet Hub used metrics such as share of federal jobs, federal contract dollars per capita, percent of children under CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program), small business lending per capita, real estate as percentage of gross state product and access to National Parks to examine how much each state suffered under federal shutdown conditions. Numbering 48th in their “Most & Least Affected States” index, Delaware emerges comparatively unscathed.

According to the study, Delaware receives the third lowest share of federal contract dollars and has the least amount of access to federal parkland in the nation. The report noted that Washington, D.C. itself is the most affected during shutdowns.

In times of shutdown, residents often wonder about national defense spending. Concerning Dover Air Force Base, Delaware’s biggest military installation, operations will proceed uninterrupted.

“The Department of Defense is not impacted by the shutdown because the Defense Spending Bill was already approved,” said Cpt. Ashleigh Peck, chief of 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs. “The partial shutdown will not impact Dover AFB.”

Social Security offices will continue to function unencumbered as well.

“The budget discussions related to the fiscal year 2019 continuing resolutions or partial federal government shutdown do not affect Social Security because we received our full FY 2019 appropriation on September 28, 2018,” said Social Security Administration regional spokeswoman Sue Denny. “Social Security services and offices will remain fully operational, and Social Security benefits will be paid on time.”

Closures, delays and staff furloughs can be expected at most other federal agency state offices.

Predictably, disagreements in Washington about how to spend tax dollars hasn’t hindered the will to collect them. While the state’s IRS offices are closed, a recorded message at the Dover office informs callers that under federal law, they’re still required to “file and pay their taxes as normal.” Anyone with an appointment is advised to call back to reschedule once the “government reopens.”

Staff writer Ian Gronau can be reached at 741-8272 or igronau@newszap.com

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