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Local effects of shutdown

The federal government has been shut down for more than a week now and although some Pike County residents may be unsure how it affects them, others are all too aware of the problems it is causing. Residents who are federal government employees are facing furlough and a loss of income which will have a ripple effect on the local economy. For local students who use government-run research websites, many educational sources have suddenly disappeared as hundreds of sites are no longer operational. The shutdown has caused many problems for buyers, sellers and employees of the real estate market, including halting closings indefinitely and hindering financing. ’The biggest way it’s impacting our area is that a majority of our buyers use the USDA loan program which is a 100% loan and one of the best loans out there,’ said McLeRoy Realty of Zebulon broker Angi Pilkenton. ‘The USDA is shut down right now so anybody buying property ‘“ through any current contracts or with new contracts ‘“ can’t close on the property. It’s causing a lot of frustration for buyers and sellers. The website itself is shut down and even lenders cannot submit files. Everything is on hold.’ Pilkenton said McLeRoy Realty has not lost any deals yet but many have been delayed. She said a skeleton crew is helping continue to finance FHA loans, although more slowly than usual. She said initially, since the IRS was no longer providing tax return verification, all loans were at a standstill. Pilkenton said that requirement has been waived. ’Closings are being put off. When we write up new contracts, we’re having to put the closing at least 90 days out because we have no idea how long the government shutdown will be or how long it will take them once they open back up,’ she said. ‘Before the shutdown, it took about 14 days to process a USDA loan. I imagine that when they open back up, it’ll be more like three weeks since everyone will be submitting their loans at the same time,’ said Pilkenton. ‘Right now, there’s nothing we can do but wait.’ Currently, there is no way to check an employee’s citizenship for employers who want to hire is a legal citizen. Employees of the United States Postal Service are not government employees, so the mail is still running and retirees will still receive their Social Security benefits. Residents can apply for new Social Security and Medicare benefits. Meat inspections will also continue, since inspectors are deemed essential. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ‘“ food stamps ‘“ will continue to operate. Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children is dependent on federal funds for administrative tasks. As of Oct. 3, Georgia WIC is only issuing vouchers in one month increments. Participants will continue to be approved for three months and are encouraged to keep their appointments at WIC clinics. For more questions about the WIC program, call 1-800-228-9173. The healthcare exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, have experienced severe delays, technical glitches and crashes. There are thousands of federal workers furloughed ‘“ including some who live in Pike County. They will continue to receive health care benefits and the premiums will be deducted from their paychecks ‘“ when they get them. Veterans Administration hospitals in Georgia will remain open. Veterans will also be able to get mental health counseling and get prescriptions filled at VA health clinics. Disability payments and pension benefits will be processed but the Board of Veterans Appeals is closed. Veterans looking to appeal a denial will have to wait until the shutdown ends.’¨Unemployment checks will still be sent out, though some payments may be delayed due to a reduction in workforce. Pike County’s Head Start program is still operational since the program’s fiscal year was approved prior to Oct. 1. Editor’s note: If you have been impacted by the shutdown, we would like to hear your story. Contact us at 770.567-3446 or news@pikecountygeorgia.com.

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