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Politics and Government

Colorado and the 2018-19 federal shutdown: What’s open, what’s not and what’s kind of open

You can still file a patent but not an IPO. National parks are open but the bathrooms are closed. US Courts are open for another week or so.

Long's Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. (Provided by Rocky Mountain National Park and the National Park Service)
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More than 800,000 federal workers across the U.S. — some 52,000 of them in Colorado alone — are affected by the federal government’s partial shutdown.

Not all of those employees are on furlough, though. A large number are still required to head to the office each day even if they won’t get a paycheck until the shutdown ends.

While the number of employees impacted by the shutdown and the departments affected represent a fraction of the overall federal workforce, they include many with significant operations in Colorado. Among them: agencies overseeing federal prisons, Rocky Mountain National Park and the U.S. Mint in Denver. 

Here’s a list of the shutdown status of various federal departments and agencies and some of the Colorado impacts:

This list may be updated.


Bureau of Land Management — The BLM is reviewing comments on its proposal to lease 23 parcels totalling 13,800 acres in its March auction. As part of the affected Interior Department, the BLM says on its site that visitors to BLM lands should expect “no BLM-provided visitor services, including restrooms, trash collection, facilities or road maintenance.”

Bureau of Prisons — There are three federal prisons in Florence and another in Jefferson County. Officers, who are considered essential, are still working but aren’t getting paid. And there’s concern about mental health workers being furloughed, according to the Marshall Project. The American Federation of Government Employees, one of the largest federal employee unions, has joined a worker lawsuit to sue the federal government, according to NPR.

Denver Mint — Open. Though it’s part of the affected Treasury Department, the U.S. Mint is a public enterprise and is not funded by annual appropriations. Instead, it runs off profits from seigniorage, which is the difference between the face value of currency and its production cost.

Department of Education — Not affected.

Department of Homeland Security — About 86 percent of the department’s 245,405 DHS employees continue to work their day jobs for divisions like Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Patrol, and the Transportation Security Administration. But many aren’t getting paid and sick calls have climbed. According to a Tweet by Michael Bilello, an assistant administrator for public affairs at TSA, 5.5 percent of workers at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport “called out” on Jan. 4, compared with the usual 3.5 percent. A breakdown of the DHS shutdown is available here.

Passengers make their way through security at Denver International Airport earlier this summer. The Denver Post reports that there have not been problems with the Transportation Security Administration at the hub. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Department of Housing and Urban Development — About 86 percent of HUD’s 7,497 employees are furloughed. Workers are advised to visit the Office of Personnel Management’s guide to help deal with creditors, mortgage companies and landlords. A breakdown of HUD’s shutdown is available here.

Department of Labor — Business as usual. The department is funded through September 2019.

Environmental Protection Agency — The large majority of the EPA’s 13,972 employees are on furlough, or about 94 percent. That means there are very few folks around to enforce environmental regulations, clean up toxic Superfund sites and pursue criminal polluters, according to The Guardian. The agency did stay open an extra week, through Dec. 28, and in a memo to workers on Jan. 8, 2019, Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler said employees would be paid for that week. See the EPA’s shutdown plans HERE

Internal Revenue Service — While the IRS is part of the affected Treasury Department, and nearly 88 percent of its staff is furloughed, the White House on Monday said the tax agency will issue taxpayer refunds during the shutdown.

National Archives and Records Administration — The entire agency has closed, including a federal records center in Broomfield. “We’re sorry, but we will not be posting updates to our social media channels during the government shutdown. Also, all National Archives facilities are closed and activities are canceled until further notice. We’ll be back as soon as possible!,” @USNatArchives said on Twitter

National Renewable Energy Laboratory — Open. Based in Golden, this national lab’s fiscal year 2019 funding was approved by Congress in September and runs through September 2019. It receives funding from the Department of Energy and employs 1,800 people who “continue to work according to their usual schedules,” according to a Heather Lammers, an NREL spokeswoman.

National Park Service —  Unlike past shutdowns, the White House this time ordered major national parks to remain open even as 87 percent of its 24,681 employees are on furlough.This means Colorado parks such as Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde and Black Canyon of the Gunnison all technically remain open, though roads in the park may be closed or impassable due to unplowed snow. With a skeleton crew kept on for emergencies, most of the visitor services, janitorial and maintenance services have ceased. However, if parks collect fees as part of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, those can be used to maintain visitor services. The Park Service shutdown plan is available here.

Rocky Mountain National Park — The park is still open but don’t expect to bump into any employees, according to the park’s telephone recording that also warns visitors to enter at their own risk. Though the Fall River Visitor Center is not normally open this time of year, volunteers at the Rocky Mountain Conservancy are staffing it. According to The Coloradoan, Park officials may start using reserves from visitor fees to perform basic maintenance functions.

Securities & Exchange Commission — The agency that oversees public investor markets is running on a very limited staff. Initial public offerings and securities investigations are on hold. See the SEC’s plans here.

Small Business Administration — The agency isn’t updating its website and the Colorado District Office’s communication officer is unable to respond until he returns to work. However, low-interest disaster loans are still available for small businesses and homeowners recovering from declared disasters at sba.gov/disaster-assistance

USA.gov –– Site is “available, but not updated.”

The Byron White U.S. Courthouse in Denver houses the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. Federal court employees continued to go to work and get paid, thanks to funding from court fees. Funding runs through Jan. 18, 2019, unless Congress approves spending bill. (Tamara Chuang, The Colorado Sun)

U.S. Courts — Currently open with minimal disruptions but, after Jan. 18, nonessential workers could be sent home, judges and other essential personnel might have to work without pay, and court dates could be postponed.

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture — Shut down its Farm Service Agency county offices, research facilities and mandatory financial audits. What remains in operation includes food inspections (for meat, eggs and grain), Forest Service law enforcement and certain low-income food programs, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP; and school lunch through the Child Nutrition Program through February. Programs like WIC, the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program will have to survive on state and local funding. On Tuesday, the Trump administration pledged to keep SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, running through February. SNAP helps out 220,000 Coloradans a month. See the USDA’s shutdown memos HERE.

U.S. Dept. of Commerce — Housing reports, durable good orders and other economic data won’t be shared during the shutdown, and that may impact investors who rely on Commerce reports for investment planning, according to The Wall Street Journal. The department also reduced staff immediately but, as part of the Antideficiency Act, kept things going like weather and climate forecasting and the First Responder Network Authority, which manages the nation’s emergency broadband network and has its technical base in Boulder. A detailed shutdown plan for the Commerce Department is available here.

U.S. Dept. of Justice — “The department’s essential law enforcement and national security functions will continue,” which includes about 84 percent of its staff (that’s 95,339 people). That means national security agents at the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and Bureau of Prisons are still working. Some departments with the highest number of furloughed employees include Community Relations Service, Office of Justice Programs and the Office of the Pardon Attorney. The shutdown report is available here.

U.S. Dept. of the Interior — Home to the national parks, Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Office of the Inspector General, the Interior Department has furloughed most of its employees. (See Rocky Mountain National Park and other parts of this document for park status.) Complete shutdown plans are posted here.

U.S. Dept. of Labor — Fully operational thanks to “a full-year appropriation in place through Sept. 30, 2019,” according to a department spokesperson.

U.S. Dept. of State — Affected but as with others, the State Department is only in partial shutdown mode. Passport applications are still be accepted and processed.

U.S Dept. of Transportation — About 38 percent of DOT’s  employees are furloughed. Within the Federal Aviation Administration, air traffic controller services, hazardous materials safety inspections and commercial space launch oversight will continue. But random drug testing of the non-controller workforce, financial operations and accountability and facility security inspections will be suspended. Other affected divisions include the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Federal Railroad Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Complete shutdown plans are posted here.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office — Business as usual at least for now, says USPTO’s site. The agency said its ability to collect patent fees allows it “to continue normal operations for a few weeks,” according to Dec. 21, 2018 post. The USPTO, which opened the Rocky Mountain Regional Office in Denver in 2014, is part of the Commerce Department and did not respond to requests for when that time period is over.

U.S. Postal Service — Open. The agency’s operating budget relies on the sales of stamps, shipping and services. It does not rely on taxpayer funding so the shutdown has no impact on business, said David Rupert, a spokesman for USPS in Colorado.

U.S. Treasury — Also affected but this finance division of the government, which includes the Internal Revenue Service, continues to update data like interest rates, financial sanctions and the FinancialStability.gov site. Several other divisions are operating with bare bones staffing, including the IRS, which has furloughed about 88 percent of its workforce. Complete shutdown plans are posted here.

White River National Forest — The most trafficked national forest in the country — with 11 major ski areas inside its boundary — is partially staffed. The White River is soliciting objections to its preliminary approval of a terrain expansion at Aspen Mountain and snowmaking expansions at Aspen, Snowmass and Vail ski areas. That 45-day objection period will be extended by the length of the shutdown, said White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams, who has about 150 of his employees furloughed through the busy holiday period.

“All NEPA projects are on hold until the shutdown ends,” said Fitzwilliams, who said he has been shoveling snow and painting during the shutdown. “We don’t have anyone working any aspect of the resorts, except our law enforcement officers are available in an emergency.”


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