FAIRBANKS — Congress has until midnight to come to a budget agreement. If there’s no agreement, the government will close.
What will a shutdown mean for Alaskans?
It means thousands of federal employees will not be allowed to go to work. The exceptions to the shutdown are essential employees, including those who monitor seismic and volcanic conditions, and law enforcement officers with the National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service. Employees whose jobs are funded by special revenues also will continue to work.
No one will be around for cabin rentals at national recreational sites or to grant some drilling permits. Denali National Park will close, as will the Murie Science and Learning Center and the Riley Creek Campground.
The estimated number of affected federal employees varies, and no one knows how long a shutdown could last.
The last government shutdown lasted three weeks in December 1995 and January 1996.
The U.S. Postal Service will operate regularly because postal operations are not subsidized by tax dollars.
“We’ll still deliver the mail the best we can,” said Anchorage-based spokeswoman Pamela Moody.
Some federal employees are still hoping the budget’s controversies will be resolved in time.
“We’re hoping that Congress works out what they need to work out,” said Pat Pourchot, spokesman for Alaska’s office of the Department of the Interior.
He said the possible shutdown has caused many employees to focus their efforts on designating essential and non-essential services.
“It’s been quite a distraction this week,” he said.
Pourchot said most Interior workers would be furloughed. National Park visitor centers and services will shut down along with ongoing permitting work with the Bureau of Land Management, and most Bureau of Indian Affairs employees will be deemed non-essential.
At Denali National Park, only a small portion of employees will maintain their daily jobs, said Kris Fister, park service public affairs officer.
“We have identified about a dozen positions that will remain on duty — staff who have responsibilities for protecting park infrastructure and park resources,” she wrote in an email. “These folks are mostly maintenance and rangers. One of the kennels staff will also remain on duty to take care of the dogs.”
Regular Social Security payments will still go out and applications will still be processed. The Internal Revenue Service will not process paper returns, but the filing deadline will remain April 18, extended three days this year for a Washington holiday. Medicare will still pay claims for recipients.
Soldiers face delayed paychecks, and civilian workers on military posts will not have work at all.
Bill Ward, a federal employee at Fort Wainwright and president of the local American Federation of Government Employees, said many military families haven’t been told what will happen if the shutdown occurs.
The national AFGE union filed a lawsuit March 30 seeking details on agencies’ shutdown plans.
Ward said there should have been a contingency plan in place long ago.
He said federal employees should have been told, “you might want to start saving some money up” in case of a period without pay. Instead, he said, “They’re going to walk in at the very last minute and say ‘Hey, you, you need to go home.’”
Contact staff writer Reba Lean at 459-7523. Freelance writer Kris Capps in Denali Park and The Associated Press contributed to this report.