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Shutdown means little to most Hoosiers in short term

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Most Hoosiers are unlikely to feel much impact as the federal government experiences a partial shutdown – unless it lasts awhile.

The U.S. Postal Service will keep operating. Most state functions backed by federal dollars will continue unabated. And unemployment, Medicaid and other benefits will continue to roll out.

The federal courts will continue to be open for now as well. But if the shutdown lasts longer than 10 days, funding for the courts could run out. Criminal proceedings would likely continue, but civil suits could be on hold, said Laura Briggs, clerk of the U.S. District Court of Southern Indiana.

“There will be no change at all in essential services for 10 days,” Briggs said. “After 10, determinations will be made.”

A standoff between majority Republicans in the House and Democrats who control the Senate have left Congress unable to pass a continuing resolution necessary to keep funding government.

House Republicans are pushing to delay or defund the federal health care law as part of the resolution, but the Senate on Monday rejected that plan just hours before the end of the federal fiscal year. Without a deal by midnight, authorization for federal spending expired.

That leaves Obama to decide what services, programs and staff to deem essential and keep funding.

Federal parks won’t be among them. Frank Doughman, superintendent of the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park in Vincennes, said the memorial would close, a move that could deny entry to as many as 100 people per day.

The Hoosier National Forest will have to furlough most of its staff, said spokeswoman Judi Perez. Still, visitors will have access to most of the forest’s 200,000 acres.

“Because we’re a national forest, we work differently from national parks,” she said. The forest “ will still be there and still be available for public use. We don’t have a way to cut off access. But people will not see our presence here. We’ll just have a few emergency personnel there.”

However, campgrounds with gates will be shuttered, she said.

Officials from Republican Gov. Mike Pence’s administration say they’re still assessing the impact a shutdown will have on state government.

“Many of the largest joint federal-state programs like Medicaid, Title I education dollars, transportation and unemployment insurance, will continue,” said Pence’s communications director, Christy Denault.

And she said the state has strong enough cash balances to fund other welfare programs and the Women, Infant and Children program through October.

Denault said it’s also unclear whether federal funding will continue to pay members of the Indiana National Guard. But she said Pence has decided to pay the guard members with state funds and seek reimbursement from federal officials later.

“If the federal government is still shut down in one week, the governor will reassess,” Denault said. “We will continue to monitor the situation and send updates as the federal government shares more information about the impact of a shutdown on federal-state programs.”

The unemployment system – which is administered and partially funded by the state – can continue without interruption for about a month, said Joe Frank, a spokesman for the agency.

“At this point, nobody is going to notice anything different,” Frank said.

Unemployment benefits will be paid, Work One offices will remain open and training programs will continue, he said. That’s in part because federal money is sent to the state in advance. But he said after about a month, the state may have to look “where we can move money around” or look at cutbacks.

“As soon as we hear something different, we’ll make sure we push that out to customers,” Frank said.

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