Despite the government shutdown, as of Thursday, the Social Security office in Rio Rancho was open.
Other programs in Rio Rancho that receive federal funding also were operating as usual.
None of the managers at the Social Security office was willing to talk to the media, according to the front desk attendant. Instead, inquiries were directed to the office in Santa Fe, which refused to comment.
Those looking for information on what the shutdown might mean to locals seeking Social Security benefits were directed to a web page, socialsecurity.gov/pressoffice/shutdown2013.pdf, which says employees who administer benefits will continue to work.
It also says:
“Because there is funding to pay these benefits, (the Social Security Administration is allowed) to perform those activities needed to ensure that benefits are accurately and timely paid, despite a lapse in appropriations.”
The local offices will continue to help residents:
• apply for benefits;
• request an appeal;
• change their address or direct deposit information;
• submit reports of death;
• verify or change their citizenship status;
• replace a lost or missing Social Security payment;
• issue a critical payment;
• change a representative payee; and
• change their paperwork to reflect a new living arrangement or income. (This last service applies to Supplemental Security Income recipients only.)
They can’t, however, issue new or replacement Social Security cards, replace Medicare cards or issue a proof of income letters, according to the contingency plan
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which was once called the food stamp program, will continue to operate, as will the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC. Funding for administration for that program is dependent on federal funds, but many states, including New Mexico, have enough funding to pay benefits.
According to the program’s web page, nmwic.org, “The federal government has shut down, but WIC in New Mexico is able to continue to serve WIC participants until further notice.”
Kenny Vigil of the New Mexico Department of Health said services like WIC are still being provided, despite the government shutdown.
“We plan to use carryover money from last year’s WIC budget to continue providing WIC benefits to the 58,000 New Mexicans currently using the program, he said. “(And) the Department of Health is not currently experiencing any problems with its pediatric flu vaccine supply.”
The DOH participates in the federal Vaccines for Children Program, a Center for Disease Control (CDC) program that supplies vaccine for about 500 providers, including all public health offices, throughout the state for those who are 18 and younger.
The DOH has also ordered 227,000 doses of pediatric flu vaccine for the current flu season. New Mexico’s providers have received about half of that, or 113,220 doses.
The department orders 65,000 doses of adult vaccine each year, he said, and it does not get the vaccine directly from the CDC.
“So there is no impact to DOH’s adult vaccine doses,” he said.
Residents can also expect to continue to be protected by the U.S. military, and law enforcement agencies and other personnel considered essential to public health and safety are exempt from furloughs. Members of the U.S. military will continue to receive pay and benefits, thanks to the Pay Our Military Act, which President Barack Obama signed into law on Monday.
For a more complete list of federal agencies and their contingency plans, go to whitehouse.gov/omb/contingency-plans.