See how the government shutdown is affecting residents in the Greater Houston area

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As the longest partial government shutdown in U.S. history continues, local agencies and residents have begun to feel its effects. Take a look below at a few of the ways the shutdown has affected the Greater Houston area.

George Bush Intercontinental Airport closes ticketing and security at terminal, flights continue

George Bush Intercontinental Airport announced Jan. 13 it has closed the ticketing lobby and security checkpoint at Terminal B due to a shortage in Transportation Security Administration staffing.

According to a statement from American Federation of Government Employees—the nation’s largest federal employee union—TSA officers have been working without pay or have been forced to take a temporary leave of absence since the shutdown began.

Houston Airport System spokesperson Bill Begley said the TSA informed the HAS of the staffing concerns and told the HAS to make necessary adjustments. Begley said the HAS closed the ticketing lobby and security checkpoint at Terminal B because it would cause the least amount of disruption.

Although the ticketing lobby and security checkpoint are closed, flights are still arriving and departing from the Terminal B, Begley said.

Sam Houston National Forest recreation activities pause

According to an automated message on the Sam Houston National Forest’s district office’s phone line, the office will remain closed during the partial government shutdown. The office, which is located on FM 1375 in New Waverly, is usually staffed with forest rangers who oversee the forest and assist visitors.

“This United States Department of Agriculture office is currently closed due to the lapse in federal government funding. The office will reopen once Congress restores funding,” the message said.

Recreation areas and campgrounds in the forest are also closed, according to a Dec. 21 statement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture—which oversees the U.S. Forest Service.

Forest service law enforcement and emergency and natural disaster response services will continue while the government is shut down, according to the statement.

Texas SNAP recipients to receive benefits early

According to a Jan. 13 announcement from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, residents in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will receive February benefits early to ensure they have access to food during the government shutdown. The action was recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to a release.

SNAP recipients will see benefits loaded to their cards by Jan. 20, according to the THHS. Clients do not need to take any action if they are eligible for these benefits.

The THHS recommends recipients spread food purchases throughout the month, rather than making bulk purchases.

THHS officials said the state will continue to receive federal funding until it runs out, but it is not clear when or if that will occur. Applications for benefits will continue to be accepted; however, should funding run out, they will remain in suspended status until more information about funding become available. For more information, visit hhs.texas.gov.

NASA closes following lapse in funding, Space Center Houston remains open

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has closed, and employees have been furloughed as part of the government shutdown. Some activities, including tracking, operation and support of the International Space Station and “work essential to prevent imminent threats to human life or protection of property,” will continue, according to NASA’s website. 

On Jan. 15, dozens of NASA employees gathered outside the Johnson Space Center to protest the shutdown. 

Ninety-six percent of NASA’s workforce is furloughed, and only a few NASA employees at the Johnson Space Center are still working—without pay—to keep the astronauts aboard the International Space Station alive, according to reports.

Space Center Houston, while an official visitor center of NASA, is operated by a nonprofit organization and will remain open during the shutdown, and programs and events will continue, according to a Dec. 21 release from Space Center Houston.

Tax filing season to begin Jan. 28

Despite the shutdown, officials with the Internal Revenue Service announced Jan. 7 the agency will still accept and process tax returns beginning Jan. 28.

Should the shutdown continue through then, the IRS will call a significant portion of its furloughed workforce to return to work, according to the release.

Although the IRS has previously been directed not to issue tax refunds during a government lapse, the Office of Management and Budget has since said the IRS has to issue payments. The filing deadline for taxpayers in Texas will still be April 15.

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Wendy Sturges
A Houston native and graduate of St. Edward's University in Austin, Wendy Sturges has worked as a community journalist covering local government, health care, business and development since 2011. She has worked with Community Impact since 2015 as a reporter and editor and moved to Tennessee in 2019.
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