MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Most federal employees in Minnesota would be furloughed in the event of a government shutdown, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — charged with responding to flooding around the state — will keep working.
About 200 employees in the St. Paul district would keep trying to fight the flooding and run locks and dams and river navigation systems, spokesman Mark Davidson said Thursday. There are around 700 employees in the district altogether.
A temporary shutdown could occur if Congress fails to reach an agreement on a spending bill this week, although it's unclear how long that would last. There have been a handful of federal shutdowns, most recently in 1996.
Minnesotans wouldn't feel the effects of a shutdown right away, said Raymond Morris, executive director of the Federal Executive Board of Minnesota. But since federal agencies do their work from periodic grants, funding would come to a halt if the shutdown were to persist for a long time.
"If it went on for any length of time, those impacts would be felt to a greater and greater extent," Morris said.
The Army Corps is tasked with responding to emergencies and necessary functions, so its work would continue in those areas. Around 30 other Army Corps projects around the state, including the major Fargo/Moorhead metro study, would be put on hold, Davidson said.
Essential government functions would remain intact. Federal law enforcement officers, postal workers, air traffic controllers and airport security officers would keep working through the shutdown, and federal prisons and veterans affairs services would keep running, Morris said.
But federal offices such as the Small Business Association, Department of Interior, Department of Agriculture and Social Security Administration and passport offices would be shuttered except for emergency functions.
Luckily, many of those agencies allow people to carry out important tasks online. That's a big advantage a current shutdown would have over those in the 1990s, Morris said.
It's uncertain at this point whether the state's seven Internal Revenue Service offices would stay open, IRS spokeswoman Sue Hales said in an email. The IRS must maintain a contingency plan in case of a shutdown, Hales said.
U.S. Postal Service spokesman Peter Nowacki said the postal service is self-funded through postage and other operations, so the thousands of postal workers in Minnesota would keep collecting and delivering mail.
The state's tourism industry would feel a large impact, Morris said. The offices of Minnesota's five national parks and two national forests, including the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, would be closed. The public would still be able to enter the forests.