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How a government shutdown could affect people in southeast Wisconsin

Posted at 5:45 PM, Sep 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-29 18:45:03-04

MILWAUKEE — If Congress can’t come to an agreement by Friday and a government shutdown happens, all non-essential federal services stop until new funding legislation is passed and signed into law.

Every federal agency has its own shutdown plan, which indicates what activities can continue during the shutdown, and whether it has to furlough any employees.

For example, the Milwaukee VA Medical Center says nearly all operations will continue. Craig Larson, the Regional Director of the Department of Veterans Affairs says, “the VA’s contingency plan will significantly mitigate the effects of a lapse in appropriations should that occur, on veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors.”

Larson says 96 percent of VA employees will be “fully funded or required to perform excepted functions during a shutdown.”

A government shutdown wouldn’t just affect the thousands of federal civilian employees in our area. It would have some serious repercussions that many people aren’t even aware of, like on Wisconsin’s beloved beer industry.

Tommy Vandervort and James Larson own Enlightened Brewing in Milwaukee, which like all breweries, is regulated in part by the federal government.

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Tommy Vandervort and James Larson

A branch of the Department of Treasury issues the federal permits to make beer, must approve all beers before it can be sold, and in certain cases, must sign off on what’s going in the beer, if the brewery plans to use non-traditional ingredients.

When that regulation process slows, or stops altogether, beer can be left sitting in the tank, or on shelves.

“We need to get that product out the door and we need to make our money back on it,” Larson said. “It costs us money to produce, and the time frame of getting it started to sold is a lot longer than people think. So, any additional time added because we can’t get a label through or get something going, costs us money.”

“It’s not a good time for another shutdown,” Vandervort said. “It’s pretty nerve wracking, because as a business you always try to seek predictability and consistency, and you don’t want curve balls that are out of your control coming from the federal government. I hope they can get their act together so we can keep things humming a long.”

Brewery

Some other curve balls to expect if the federal government shuts down:

  • Delays at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) - which would slow down the process of getting tax refunds, and child tax credit payments to those who are still waiting for them.
  • Delays in sending out food stamps to families who rely on federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
  • New applications for federal benefits, like Social Security and Veterans Affairs payments, are not processed during a shutdown, which means delays in receiving those first payments. Luckily, people already receiving social security and VA payments, will likely not be affected
  • National Parks and Trails could close. For southeast Wisconsin, that means the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, which is popular this time of year, would have no visitor services or maintenance for the duration of the shutdown.

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