Shutdown not seismic locally – yet

Farmers affected

By David J. Coehrs -

Now in its 25th day, the longest partial government shutdown in U.S. history has yet to make a seismic impact in Fulton County.

Still, it has affected some federal agricultural services, and by the end of January could signal income tax refund delays and potential problems for those receiving food benefits.

With the Farm Service Agency closed during the shutdown, farmers can’t apply for government operating loans or the U.S. Department of Agriculture Market Facilitation Program initiated last year for soybeans.

“If you hadn’t turned in your yield and gotten paid before the shutdown, you won’t right now,” said Roy Norman, senior organization director for the local Four County Farm Bureau.

He said the situation could change after Trump addresses farmers at the American Farm Bureau Federation Convention in New Orleans, La., which ends Wednesday.

To date, Fulton County Job and Family Services has been fortunate, Director Amy Metz-Simon said. Only Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits may be impacted by the shutdown. Although SNAP funding by the USDA expired in December, when January benefits are usually distributed, enough funding had already accrued to allow benefits for both this month and February.

Metz-Simon received notice Jan. 9 from the Ohio Office of Child Support Enforcement that FCJFS children’s services will not be affected by the shutdown. Federal funding had already been budgeted, and will continue until at least Sept. 30.

The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services has confirmed that school meal programs, the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families cash benefits, and the Emergency Food Assistance Program will not be affected.

“I don’t see that there’s any concern at this point,” Metz-Simon said.

February’s SNAP benefits are to be issued by Jan. 20. But with the uncertainty surrounding the shutdown’s length, March benefits are not guaranteed.

FCJFS clients must return new applications or reapplications/recertifications for a pending SNAP benefit no later than Jan. 24. They can be dropped off at the office at 604 S. Shoop Ave. in Wauseon, emailed to or faxed to 419-337-0061.

The agency has not been notified whether the shutdown will impact Medicaid or cash assistance programs.

The average number of Fulton County residents FCJFS helps each month include 2,929 with food assistance, 7,185 with Medicaid, and 84 with Ohio Works First. It also provides adult protective and transportation services.

Because the Internal Revenue Service won’t begin processing returns until Jan. 29, no delay of refunds is currently expected. That could change if the government shutdown continues.

“It’s not delaying anything yet,” said Robin Stamm, a senior tax specialist with H & Block in Wauseon. “It depends on if the shutdown continues that long.”

Taxpayers normally receive a refund 10-14 days after their returns are processed. It’s the same for earned income credit and refundable additional child tax credit, although those aren’t usually processed until about Feb. 15.

Stamm said the shutdown has limited IRS staffing to a point at which the service’s phones aren’t being answered.

“We are operating on the basis that they are going to start accepting returns on Jan. 29 until we hear differently,” she said.

Her customers have not been voicing concern, Stamm added.

In a solidaric move announced Dec. 22, Fifth District Congressman Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green) asked the federal Office of the Chief Administrative Officer to withhold his paycheck for the duration of the shutdown. Latta has co-sponsored a proposed constitutional amendment with South Carolina State Representative Ralph Norman that would cut off paychecks for all members of Congress during government shutdowns.

In a statement released last week, Latta said, “While I hope we can soon pass an appropriations bill that opens the government and secures our border, members of Congress should not be receiving their paychecks while other federal workers are not receiving theirs.” He said state representatives and senators shouldn’t be paid when the government is closed.

Farmers affected

By David J. Coehrs

Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.

Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.