By | January 7, 2019

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The partial shutdown of the federal government over funding for a border wall on the United States-Mexican border will enter its 17th day Monday and appears poised to last even longer.

The shutdown affects about a quarter of the federal government, with many “non-essential” government workers furloughed and government agencies shuttered.

The pain is not evenly distributed, however. With less exposure to the federal government than other regions of the country, central Illinois and the state at large appear to be weathering the storm better than others.

Locally in Peoria, the largest number of workers affected by the shutdown are at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research. Some 200 people are employed at the Ag Lab, and research there is halted while staff are on furlough.

In a study conducted by Wallethub, a personal finance website, Illinois was the 11th least affected by the government shutdown given its smaller share of federal jobs and relatively few number of national parks and monuments.

On the other hand, states with larger shares of federal workers, like Virginia and Maryland, or more national parks, such as Alaska or Wyoming, took a greater hit.

“I think one thing that’s important to clarify is that it’s not a complete federal government shutdown,” said Beverly Bunch, a public policy professor at the University of Illinois Springfield.

Bunch said those feeling the brunt of the impact right now are those who work for the federal government as well as federal contractors.

On the other hand, nearly three-quarters of the government is funded, with many government services that broad swaths of people rely on daily still being funded: Social Security checks are still being sent out, doctors and hospitals have received their Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, U.S. Postal Service is still delivering mail and Transportation Security Administration officers are still staffing airport checkpoints.

In Springfield, the most noticeable victim of the government shutdown is the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, which has been closed since the shutdown began. This has left some visitors to town disappointed, but local officials say if there were to be a shutdown, now is the best time of year to have it.

“The time of year it is has certainly benefited Springfield tourism because we’re in the off season now,” said Scott Dahl, the interim executive director of the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau. “And it’s unfortunate the few families that it has impacted that came down here for Lincoln’s home, but I think it’s good to point out that the Lincoln Home historic site is the only site that’s affected by the federal government shutdown.”

Dahl said it would have been an “urgent emergency” had the shutdown taken place in June or July, when the number of visitors to the city’s historic sites multiplies compared to this time of year.

“But, right now, we’ll just kind of wait to see how this shutdown continues,” Dahl said. “Hopefully it gets resolved sooner rather than later.”

Citing estimates from the Center for American Progress, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin’s office said more than 8,300 federal workers in Illinois are being furloughed or forced to work without pay during the shutdown.

Durbin’s office said other problems created by the shutdown include the freezing of loans and grants from the Small Business Administration, Federal Housing Administration and Community Development Board; public housing agencies facing delayed payments, delaying maintenance and emergency repairs; and the closure of USDA farm service agency offices.

And, the longer the shutdown persists, the more that services could be affected and harm could be done, especially in fiscally-challenged states left picking up the tab for social services once covered by the federal government.

“In general, we’re not ready for a recession and we’re not ready for a shutdown,” Bunch said.

But, for the time being, many are getting by with business as usual.

Peoria Public Schools, which receives federal funding for various programs like the The National School Lunch Program, also said its operations have not been affected by the shutdown. While there may be some delays in reimbursement, that should not affect any day-to-day operations, district spokesman Thomas Bruch said.

And even for those who came to see the Lincoln home, Dahl said the historic neighborhood is still available to walk through, even if the visitors center and the actual home are closed.

“Again, we apologize to the families that have come here solely for the Lincoln home,” Dahl said. “But there’s so much more to do and see in Springfield with all our other sites open.”

The Associated Press and Journal Star staff contributed to this report.

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