Much of South Florida may not notice that large parts of the federal government shut down early Tuesday, but Washingtons budget stalemate promises to bring a sprawling list of challenges for the region.
Homeless shelters and elder-care agencies are working through cash-flow projections to see how long their reserves will last without ongoing injections of federal aid. Mortgage lenders wonder how theyll close deals if the IRS cant verify tax information from borrowers. Tour operators face a loss of businesses over closed federal parks.
Well be able to keep the crew busy for a little while, said Terry Strickland, general manager of the Yankee Freedom III ferry in Key West. The high-speed catamaran makes daily runs to the Dry Tortugas National Park, which was set to close Tuesday for lack of funds. The crew will be assigned maintenance tasks until Tortugas reopens its famous fort and campgrounds.
Its not a good turn of events for anyone, he said.
Some of the federal governments most visible roles in South Florida should continue unabated, even without a fully funded budget, officials said. Social Security checks should arrive as usual, the regions major airports said federal security and immigration posts will be staffed at normal levels, and the Post Office will function as usual.
Monday agencies were still sorting through the rules for the first federal shutdown since the Clinton administration. The Federal Housing Administration initially planned on halting the issuance of new federally-backed residential mortgages, but by Monday had adopted new guidance that would allow the program to continue with funds independent from the budget stalled by House Republicans.
Still, an extended shut-down could still disrupt the mortgage industry. Mortgage bankers in South Florida on Monday were warning of delays if the IRS wont provide tax information, which most lenders require to verify income.
Its going to cause major delays said Adam Cohn, of Primary Residential in Fort Lauderdale.
He said his corporate office sent out an email Monday afternoon warning of the tax-information issue, and saying the IRS did not expect to process lender requests during a shutdown. (An IRS spokeswoman could not clarify the situation when contacted Monday afternoon.)
Craig Garcia, vice president of Westons Shelter Mortgage, a partner with the Keyes Co. real estate brokerage, said his office also was expecting an IRS log-jam for mortgage approvals.
Theres probably going to be some people who get through without IRS verification, he said. But I think there will be lots and lots of people who arent going to get [their loans] closed.
At Jewish Community Services in Miami, President Fred Stock said the charity has enough cash reserves to weather an interruption in federal payments. But he said a sudden end to federal dollars could be a crisis for smaller service providers.
For folks that dont have that kind of back-up, he said, they could really be hurting.
Cutting off funds to the government will mean the furlough of about 800,000 federal workers nationwide. Federal law allows some government functions to continue without new funding approval by Congress, including agencies performing life-and-death functions, those sustained by fees or otherwise carrying out mandatory functions, such as processing benefit checks. The rest must go into hibernation until new funding is enacted into law.