Here's what happens in Mass. if the government shuts down

A notice posted outside of one of the gates of Bunker Hill Historic National Park in Charlestown notifying visitors the monument is closed due to the federal government shutdown in 2018. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A notice posted outside of one of the gates of Bunker Hill Historic National Park in Charlestown notifying visitors the monument is closed due to the federal government shutdown in 2018. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

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In the words of Rep. Jim McGovern yesterday, it will take a “miracle” to avoid a shutdown of the federal government this weekend. If it happens, the effects will be felt far from Washington, D.C.

You’ve probably heard this story before (in 2018in 2013, etc). But it’s a little different this time; the potential shutdown isn’t because of conflict between Democrats and Republicans. Instead, it’s because of infighting among congressional Republicans.

Click here for NPR’s look at what would — and wouldn’t — be affected by a shutdown at the national level. Keep scrolling to see how those impacts would be felt across Massachusetts:

Federal workers: There are nearly 30,000 federal employees based in Massachusetts. Some would be immediately furloughed without pay. Others considered essential employees — like the state’s nearly 15,000 military members — would be required to keep working, but miss their next paycheck if the shutdown continues into mid-October. (The good news is that both groups will get back pay for the period once the potential shutdown ends, thanks to a 2019 law.)

Logan Airport: Massport says they don’t expect interruptions in service “at this time” because air traffic controllers and TSA officers are among the workers deemed essential. However, during previous shutdowns, many began calling out sick, leading to delays at airports. If you’re traveling in the near future, plan accordingly.

Food assistance: Massachusetts officials say they’d be able keep federally funded food programs for low-income residents like SNAP and WIC running during the shutdown. But some worry those programs could begin to dry up by the end of October. More than 1 million Bay Staters depend on SNAP and another 125,921 residents use WIC.

Head Start: Some of the 159 Head Start child care programs in Massachusetts would have to scramble for new funding streams in the event of a shutdown. As WBUR’s Emily Piper-Vallillo reports, some of the programs run on a fiscal year calendar that begins Oct. 1. Tommy Sheridan, the deputy director of the National Head Start Association, says such centers would have to pull from reserves or lines of credit, and could temporarily close if the shutdown lasts long.

Disaster recovery: For now, the Small Business Administration says it’s “business as usual” for residents applying for disaster relief loans in the wake of this summer’s flooding. However, FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund is running short of money and the agency has already paused payments on less pressing projects.

Medicare and Social Security: Payments through Medicare and Social Security will keep going out automatically regardless of a shutdown. Still, since some staff at those agencies may face furloughs, initial Medicare enrollment could be disrupted.

Veterans: VA benefits like health care and pensions also continue automatically. But, according to Boston City Council President Ed Flynn’s office, some veterans services, such as transition assistance and career counseling, are likely to be affected by a shutdown.

  • Go deeper: Click here for our full story on what the local impacts of a shutdown would look like in the Bay State.
  • Tune in: Sen. Elizabeth Warren will be on Radio Boston this morning to talk more about the shutdown. Listen at 11 a.m.

Now, to slightly more functional bodies of government:

The tax relief bill is officially on Gov. Maura Healey’s desk (at least, figuratively speaking). The state Senate overwhelmingly approved the wide-ranging piece of legislation yesterday (like the House, there was only one no vote). Senate President Karen Spilka called it “the most significant tax relief package in a generation.”

  • Set your timers: Healey has 10 days to sign or veto the bill. (She’s been a big fan of passing tax relief, so bet on the first option.)

Electric vehicle chargers are returning to the Mass. Pike. State officials plan to have new charging stations up and running at six highway rest stops by the end of the year — replacing the chargers that were decommissioned this past spring after frequent breakdowns.

  • Where will they be located: The chargers will be at rest stops on both sides of the Pike in Charlton and Lee, plus westbound in Framingham and eastbound in Natick.
  • Go deeper: A look at EV infrastructure in Massachusetts.

Today is the first day of Topsfield Fair, which runs through Oct. 9. It’s also the second day of the Deerfield Fair, which — and this may be my New Hampshire-native bias showing — I think is better.

P.S.— The Salem chapter of this historic organization has started to see its members disappear. Do you know what organization it is? Take our Boston News Quiz and test your knowledge of this week’s stories.


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Nik DeCosta-Klipa Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.



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