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Congressman Darren Soto

Representing the 9th District of Florida

Government Shutdown FAQ

Dear Neighbor,

Like you, I am deeply disturbed by this government shutdown and what it means for our country. Over 10,500 families of federal employees in Florida are either working without pay or have been furloughed, and if the shutdown drags on, it could impact air travel safety, nutrition assistance programs, and the processing of tax refunds.

On the first day of the new Congress, I joined a bipartisan majority of my colleagues in voting to fully fund and reopen government agencies. But Senate Republicans and President Trump rejected the proposal and stated they will not accept any funding bill that does not include money for a border wall. 

We need bipartisan solutions for Congress to work, not this dysfunctional blame-game that jeopardizes American lives.

I agree that we need to protect our country from terrorists and others who would do us harm. Both parties have worked together to improve security at our airports, ports, and borders. However, I cannot support funding for an ineffective and discriminatory wall that will have little benefit for our border security and cost tax payers more than $5.6 billion.

It's time for the President to do the right thing and prioritize American workers over politics.

Please see below for a list of resources available to you and your families.  As always, my office is here to help. Call us if you are in need of assistance during this difficult time.

 

Thank you,

Darren Soto

 

Soto FAQ:

 

Will unemployment benefits continue during a federal government shutdown?

Yes. Unemployment compensation is a federal-State program administered by State agencies. Individuals should check with your respective state agencies for information about specific concerns. There may be a delay in processing new applications.

 

I am a federal employee. Am I eligible for unemployment benefits?

Possibly. Federal employees may be eligible for Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees (UCFE). States contribute to UFCE under the same terms and conditions as regular state unemployment compensation. Please contact state agencies regarding your eligibility for UCFE.

Please view the following link for the Office of Personnel’s direction on the partial shutdown.

https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/furlough-guidance/#url=Overview

 

I am a government contractor. What should I expect?

This is unclear as you should discuss with your company’s management how their contract is structured as all companies are contracted different depending on the agency with which their company contracts. Unfortunately, in many previous shutdowns, contractors did not receive compensation through retroactive legislation.

 

Will I receive my Social Security payments?

Yes. The Social Security Administration is funded through the fiscal year of 2019. Benefits will remain uninterrupted.

 

Will Veterans and military hospitals continue to operate?

Yes. At this time, VA Medical Centers will remain fully active. Military Health System (MHS) will continue to operate, as will the private sector under TRICARE. Patients should contact their hospitals or clinics to confirm appointments. There may be delays scheduling new appointments.

 

I am a veteran and/or military retiree. Will I receive my pension?

Most likely, yes. Congress has funded the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

 

I am a disabled veteran. Will I receive my benefits on time?

Most likely, yes. Congress has funded the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for the fiscal year of 2019.

 

I receive Veterans Affairs (VA) life insurance payments. Can I expect to receive my VA life insurance payments on time?

Most likely, yes. Congress has funded the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for the fiscal year of 2019.

 

I am a veteran student who receives benefits under the GI Bill or the Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP). Will I continue to receive payments on time?

Most likely, yes. Congress has funded the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

 

**I am on Medicare. Will I still be able to see my doctor?

Yes. Existing Medicare patients can still see their health care providers, and those providers will continue to submit bills and receive payment for their services.

 

I rely on food assistance programs to feed my family. What should I expect?

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program will continue operating into February, but if the shutdown last longer, this program may run out of money.

Similarly, the Child Nutrition (CN) Programs, including School Lunch, School Breakfast, Child and Adult Care Feeding, Summer Food Service and Special Milk will continue operations at least until February.

 

What about my Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claim?

EEOC staff will not answer questions or respond to correspondence. Mediations and public events will be cancelled. EEOC litigation will be suspended unless needed on an emergency basis or if a continuance has not been granted by the court. Unfortunately, it is not known whether the courts will grant these requests.

In addition, federal sector hearings will be cancelled, and federal employee appeals of discrimination complaints will not be decided.

Petitioners must file charges within requisite deadlines; however, investigations will not resume until the federal government reopens. You should keep copies of all submitted paperwork and ensure delivery receipt.

  • The address for the Miami Office is
    • Miami Tower, 100 SE 2nd Street, Suite 1500,
    • Miami FL 33131
  • The address for the Tampa Field Office is
    • 501 East Polk Street, Suite 1000
    • Tampa, FL 33602
  • Once the government reopens, phone service will resume:
    • (VOICE) 1-800-669-4000 or 404-562-6909/6966
    • (TTY) 1-800-669-6820
    • (ASL Video Phone) 1-844-234-5122
  • To inquire about the status of an existing charge, you may email info@eeoc.gov, but there is no definitive response timeline.

 

I am a federal government retiree. Will I receive my pension?

Yes. According to the OPM, federal retirees under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) will continue to receive their scheduled annuity payments on the first business day of the month.

Effective on January 1, 1987, FERS includes most federal employees; the CSRS system generally covers federal workers hired before 1984.

 

Will my mail delivery continue?

Yes. The U.S. Postal Service is self-funded, and 500,000 employees will continue to deliver mail.

 

I am applying for a federal grant. Do I need to meet the deadline?

Yes. You should always submit your grant application ahead of the deadline. Grants.gov is operational; however, there are may be limited staff to help depending on the agency. The Grants.gov Contact Center phone number is 1-800-518-GRANTS, and email Support@Grants.gov.

 

Are federal courts still open?

Yes, but there may be limited operations. Federal courts have enough funding to operate through January 19, 2019. Unless otherwise advised, all proceedings and deadlines remain in effect as scheduled, but you should check the local court or office for information specific to your needs.

Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) will remain in operation for the electronic filing of documents with courts. If the shutdown continues for an extended period, the federal Judiciary system will reassess available funds and operations.

 

I am a small business owner, who is currently waiting an SBA loan from the Small Business Administration. Will I still receive my loan on time?

The partial government shutdown affects the SBA. Delays are possible, but you should immediately contact your lender. If the SBA has already processed your loan guaranty, then your lender should be able to disburse your loan funds to you in a timely manner.

Businesses are likely to face delays if the SBA has not yet processed their loan guaranty approval. A shutdown will likely result in a suspension of many small business services support services; consequently, businesses seeking SBA loans should contact their lender immediately as SBA support services are likely to be suspended during a shutdown.

A short-term government shutdown should not affect loans from the Office of Disaster Assistance.

 

I am a veteran currently awaiting a VA home loan. Can I expect any delays?

The Department of Veterans Affairs is operational, but there are reports of minor delays in receiving discharge documentation necessary to process loan applications.

Please check the St. Petersburg Regional Office for the most recent updates. The VA Home Loans Guaranty Services can be reached at 1-877-827-3702. 

I am facing foreclosure on an FHA-backed loan. Does the clock stop?

No. Most loss mitigation for homeowners facing foreclosure (including FHA loan modifications, FHA-HAMP, etc.) will continue. You should contact your lender, who will make the decision about foreclosures.

For a variety of housing questions, the HUD/FHA Resource Center: (800) CALL-FHA (225-5342), and the HUD/FHA National Servicing Center: (877) 622-8525 will be available.

 

I am in the middle of buying a home; what should I expect?

Unfortunately, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is included in the partial government shutdown, and you should contact your lender immediately.

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) urged mortgagees and lenders to be sensitive to approved borrowers, which includes requests for late fee waivers and the suspension of credit reporting on affected borrowers.

FHA may have staff reductions during the shutdown; as a result, there may be a delay processing FHA-insured loans. The length of the shutdown will affect the severity of any delays.

HUD will have a limited number of employees to answer emergency questions during a shutdown and will not be able to answer case specific questions. The HUD/ FHA Information Resources Center may be reached at (800) CALL-FHA (1-800-225-5342) or answers@hud.gov.

If you call or email field offices or headquarters’ staff, you may hear a voicemail or receive a return email indicating that the federal government is closed.

All HUD regional, field offices, and headquarters will be closed. There will be exceptions for a limited range of activities. The HUD public resource information line is 1-866-INFO HUD (1-866-463-6483).

 

I am planning to travel and need a passport. What should I expect?

Unfortunately, the partial government shutdown includes the U.S. State Department, but the agency relies on consular fees to support operations.

If you have a scheduled appointment at a U.S. Department of State passport agency or center, please plan on keeping your appointment.

If you need to cancel your appointment, you may do so by visiting the Online Passport Appointment System or by calling 1-877-487-2778.

If you have a scheduled appointment at a passport acceptance facility and need to cancel your appointment, please contact the facility directly.

Although the State Department operations may be closed, you should confirm your appointment since the shutdown might impact the facility housing a local passport agency.

 

I am a United States’ citizen living abroad. Will the local United States embassy be open?

Yes. United States embassies will remain open to some degree, but U.S. citizens living abroad should prepare for delays in any application or processing requests as staff furloughs may occur.

Please know that the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) uses fees to fund many operations and expects to continue with scheduled interviews and appointments. Please call 1-800-375-5283 for additional information.

 

If I have an interview or appointment with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), should I attend? Can I still apply for a visa?

Yes. Although the Department of Homeland Security funding lapsed, USCIS is fee-funded, so it remains open and continues to process applications. You should attend interviews and appointments as scheduled. Please call 1-800-375-5283 for additional information.

 

Can I use e-Verify to check the status of a potential employee?

No. E-Verify is suspended during the shutdown.

 

What is happening at the airport?

Air travel and security are impacted by the shutdown, and travelers should arrive early for any departures and prepare for delays in clearing customs.

Air traffic controllers are working without pay, and the Federal Aviation Administration is asking furloughed aviation safety inspectors to resume their work.

All aviation security workers – air traffic controllers, animal and plant inspectors, aviation safety experts, Customs and Border Patrol officials, and Transportation Security Agency officers -- are working without pay.

 

Can I apply for TSA PreCheck and Global Entry?

Online applications for TSA PreCheck are being accepted, but the Department of Homeland Security suspended Global Entry applications during the shutdown.

 

Will I still be able to visit the national parks and monuments?

Officials stated that the anticipated plan is to keep many national parks open for hiking, wildlife watching, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Open-air parks and monuments in Washington, D.C. will be open, but indoor facilities like the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Park, the Smithsonian Museums, and the National Gallery of Art are closed.

Unfortunately, campgrounds, concessions, and other services that require National Park Service staff will not be open.

 

What will happen to schools – including colleges and universities?

An extended shutdown could affect colleges, universities, school districts, and vocational rehabilitation agencies that depend on federal funds to support key services and programs.

Pell Grants and Direct Student Loans should continue as normal; however, students should contact their specific college or university with specific questions about federal financial aid – including pending awards for incoming students.

 

It is tax filing season; what should I do?

Unfortunate the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is affected. An updated plan is in the works, but in the interim taxpayers may call 1-800-829-1040 for general information.

 

 

Resource Links:

United Way 211:

http://www.211.org/

 

OPM:

https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/furlough-guidance/

 

NARFE:

https://www.narfe.org/communications/index.cfm?fa=viewArticle&ID=4327