Is it closed?: Here's what Vermont residents should know in case of a government shutdown

Editor's Note: The section on the effect of a government shutdown on schools and school lunches have been clarified and updated.

As Sunday, Oct. 1, looms nearer, and with no compromise insight between Democrat and Republican policymakers, a federal government shutdown appears imminent.

What does that mean for Vermont residents and the state's 6,800 federal workers (half of whom work in the Burlington-South Burlington area)? But it isn't only the employees who will be affected, residents who need federal services will find out who is "essential."

From the Vermont federal courts and jury duty (yes, you have to go) to the mail, FEMA aid and school lunches, here are the answers to some of the questions you might have.

Is the post office (USPS) open during the government shutdown?

Yes, the U.S Postal Service (USPS) will remain open, and Vermonters will still be able to send and receive mail, as USPS is sustained through a "permanent no-year appropriation," USA Today reports.

A sign seen outside The Friendly Toast, offering specials for those affected by the partial government shutdown in 2019.
A sign seen outside The Friendly Toast, offering specials for those affected by the partial government shutdown in 2019.

How will EBT and WIC benefits be affected?

SNAP benefits in Vermont will continue until at least the end of October, Vermont Public reports. However, the fate of WIC is not yet certain.

Will schools have to cut budgets or services?

The Vermont Agency of Education told The Free Press that Vermont schools would not be immediately felt given that school districts are predominantly locally funded.

However, the agency noted that should the government shutdown continue for a "significant period" of time, school programs will likely begin to experience a larger impact due to the loss of federal funding and access to federal staff and resources. As for how long a "significant period" of time is, the agency declined to "speculate about the length of a potential shutdown."

Will the free school lunch program shut down?

The state's universal school lunch program, which supplies free breakfasts and lunches to all public K-12 students regardless of income, will have no disruption. This is because the program, which was passed in June earlier this year, is largely funded by state property tax.

Vermont's universal school lunch program should not be affected by the federal government shutdown unless the shutdown continues for a "significant period" of time.
Vermont's universal school lunch program should not be affected by the federal government shutdown unless the shutdown continues for a "significant period" of time.

What was the longest government shutdown See how long each past shutdown lasted.

How will FEMA flood relief projects be impacted in Vermont?

The shutdown, which will require FEMA to pause money allocation, will not have a long-term effect on Vermont's flood recovery projects funded by the agency, FEMA officials said on Sept. 8 during Governor Phil Scott's weekly press conference.

Many of Vermont's flood relief projects are not yet at the stage in execution where withdrawing funds is necessary. The few projects that need money immediately fall under FEMA's immediate needs funding (INF) category and will still be able to be funded by the agency during the shutdown.

TSA agent Anthony Morselli of Georgia, VT, shows his GoFundMe post on Facebook before starting his shift at Burlington International Airport on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. Morselli and his wife, both TSA agents, didn't get paid along with approximately 800,000 other federal workers and, to try to make ends meet, started the GoFundMe site to try to pay the bills as the government shutdown entered its 21st day.

Will the Burlington Airport be affected by the government shutdown?

Like during previous government shutdowns, is likely that essential airport workers, such as Traffic Security Administration (TSA) officers and air traffic controllers, will be required to work without pay until the government reopens.

Regarding shutdown protocol at the Burlington International Airport in South Burlington, The Free Press called and emailed Director of Aviation Nic Long but he did not return the request for comment. A TSA officer also declined to comment.

Is Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park closed?

During a government shutdown, all national parks and amenities (campgrounds, visitor centers, museums, research facilities, etc.) are closed, according to an article from the National Parks Conservation Association. Additionally, any activities held in national parks are canceled, including ranger hikes, service events, educational programs, field trips and even weddings and vacations.

Representatives from Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Park did not return requests for comment.

Who will work without getting paid? Which jobs lose pay in a government shutdown? What to know about military, national parks, TSA, more

Are state parks closed?

No, state parks will remain open as they are operated locally, not federally.

Is the IRS open?

Partially, but citizens may have a difficult time contacting the IRS during the shutdown due to the agency's plan to furlough two-thirds of its 60,000 employees and close hundreds of its Taxpayer Assistance Centers nationwide, an article from the Federal News Network reported.

Although the IRS will still receive mail, staff cannot return correspondence or answer the thousands of phone calls they receive daily. Additionally, employees are not able to process tax returns -- a detriment to the millions of Americans who received an extension on their taxes and have yet to meet the Oct. 16 deadline.

Will the Vermont National Guard remain active?

According to Vermont National Guard (VTARNG) spokesperson Marcus Tracy, the agency has yet to receive guidance on how its operations would change should a government shutdown occur. However, he added VTARNG will likely still be able to respond to future state emergencies, such as another severe weather event.

"The VTARNG will continue operations as normal until we are given explicit guidance from our higher headquarters to change our daily operations due to a government shutdown ...," Tracy said. "We cannot currently comment on specific activities as those discussions are ongoing with higher command."

A national look: What does a federal government shutdown mean? How you and your community could be affected

What will happen to the federal courts?

Vermont's federal judiciary will perform excepted minimum duties during the shutdown, but employees, whose compensation will come from fee balances and no-year appropriations, are only guaranteed to be paid through Oct. 13, according to Clerk of Court Jeffrey Eaton.

If the shutdown is predicted to continue past Oct. 13, Vermont's federal district must figure out how to continue providing essential services in the absence of funding.

"We here in Vermont are currently in the process of developing such contingency plans and will communicate those plans if it becomes imminent that the Judiciary can no longer operate with available funds," Eaton said.

Do I have to report to jury duty?

Vermont residents selected to serve on federal juries must report for duty at least until Oct. 13.

"Beyond that, yet to be determined," Eaton said.

Megan Stewart is a government accountability reporter for the Burlington Free Press. Contact her at

This article originally appeared on Burlington Free Press: Federal government shutdown 2023: What's opened and closed in Vermont?