600 workers in SLO County could feel the effects of a government shutdown

A federal government shutdown would affect more than 600 federal employees in San Luis Obispo County, from post office to Social Security employees to airport passenger screeners.

However, it’s too soon to know how many workers would be furloughed and how many would be deemed “essential” and would continue working, said Ashley Schapitl, spokeswoman for Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.

“But regardless, no one would get paid,” she added. “It’s just a matter of whether you’re going to work or not.”

If a shutdown happens, critical services, including air traffic control and the Postal Service, would continue, and Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security recipients would still receive payments.

However, if an individual were to turn 65 and want to apply for Social Security during the shutdown, the agency wouldn’t be able to process a claim, Schapitl said.

A shutdown would close national parks, delay federal tax refunds and delay federal payments to states to cover the administrative costs of unemployment benefits. If funding for unemployment insurance from the federal government were to dry up, states would be forced to either foot the bill or reduce or stop benefits.

In San Luis Obispo County, the largest number of employees — 388 — work for the Postal Service, according to Capps’ office. An additional 121 work for the Transportation Security Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard and Camp San Luis Obispo; 51 work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture; and 22 work for the U.S. Social Security Administration.

There are 15 employees with the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the Carrizo Plain National Monument and Piedras Blancas Light Station.

There are also 1,628 federal retirees in the county. Retirees would continue to receive pension benefits because they are mandatory appropriations, Schapitl said.

Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.