5 things to know about how a federal shutdown hits in Alaska

A U.S. Postal Service worker loads up a truck at the Federal Building in Juneau on April 21, 2022. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

With Congress unable to agree on a spending plan, federal agencies are preparing for a government shutdown that could begin Sunday, Oct. 1.

Here are five things to know:

Some Alaskans could miss paychecks

Alaska is home to about 15,000 civilian federal workers. They’d be affected differently, depending on what jobs they do and how their agencies are funded. 

Essential workers, like air traffic controllers and FBI agents, would work but without paychecks until the impasse is resolved. Other workers would be furloughed. They’d get backpay when Congress passes a bill to restart government. 

What about the military?

Service members must also remain on the job. A bill pending in Congress would keep checks flowing to active duty personnel, civilian base workers and Defense contractors. If the bill passes, the Coast Guard would also get paid during the shutdown.

Just before past shutdowns, Congress has passed bills exempting the military, but that’s not assured this time. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chair of the Appropriations Committee, said Wednesday that she was still working on a broader bill so that everyone got paid.

RELATED: U.S. military pay in question, including thousands in Alaska, as government shutdown approaches

Some services will continue

A shutdown only freezes agencies that depend on annual appropriations bills, which is about a third of federal spending. U.S. Mail service would be largely unaffected. Social Security payments would still arrive. The Alaska Native Medical Center will provide services as usual.

What about public assistance programs and Head Start?

These are federal programs that are administered through the state and nonprofits. They will continue as long as the shutdown doesn’t go on longer than a month.

The state says SNAP benefits (formerly known as Food Stamps) will be funded through at least October. WIC (nutrition assistance for Women, Infants and Children) has funding to last through December.

Most Head Start programs in Alaska have already received their annual grants. All are funded through at least October.

We’ve been here before

If Congress doesn’t pass new spending bills, it would launch the 15th shutdown since 1980. Most funding lapses lasted one to three days. The most recent, in 2018-’19, went on for 34 days.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her atlruskin@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Lizhere.

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