Teresa Deppner, clerk of court for the Southern District of West Virginia, said Monday that federal courts would be able to operate for at least 10 days if the government shuts down.
"Judge John D. Bates, the director of the administrative office of U.S. Courts, provided an advisory to the judiciary -- the judiciary doesn't have to shut down immediately, we can continue operating, utilizing fees and no-year appropriations for an estimated 10 business days," Deppner said.
That money would be used to pay judges, court employees and attorneys with the federal public defender's office, Deppner said.
"They told us to continue to operate, but funding should be conserved as much as possible," she said.
An advisory on the court's website said that electronic filing would remain in operation. After Oct. 15, the situation would be reassessed, according to the notice.
Some coal-mine safety inspections will continue, even if the federal government shuts down, according to a U.S. Department of Labor contingency plan.
Under a shutdown, active staff at labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration would be cut from 2,355 to 966. MSHA, though, would continue "to perform certain activities which, if not performed, would significantly compromise the safety of human life in the nation's mines.
But instead of performing legally mandated regular inspections at all of the nation's underground and surface mines and mining facilities, MSHA inspectors would visit only certain operations.
"MSHA will perform targeted inspections at mines which have been prioritized based on the mine's history of the hazards that put miners' lives at risk," agency chief Joe Main said in his contingency plan, dated Sept. 10. "Hazard-specific inspections will also be conducted across the nation to address those conditions and practices which have been recent key causes of death and serious injury."
Main said that "if unforeseen emergencies, such as a mine disaster" occurred, additional employees would be identified to work.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration would send home all but 230 of 2,235 employees it has to protect the health and safety of workers at non-mining businesses around the country.
OSHA said it would maintain one safety inspector and one health inspector in each of its area offices. In West Virginia the agency maintains an area office in Charleston that polices workplaces around the state.
Meanwhile, only eight of the 470 employees of the U.S. Department of Interior's Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement would remain on the job in the event of a government shutdown. OSM would keep another 21 employees on call, the agency said in its contingency plan.
Last week, the IRS released a contingency plan to keep operating for at least five days following a government shutdown. However, according to the U.S. Treasury Department, the IRS would essentially close its local field offices and cut off customer service for the duration of the shutdown.
"The IRS would halt taxpayer services such as responding to taxpayer questions, including telephone customer service functions," the Treasury Department said in a statement on its website.
Local Social Security offices will remain open during a shutdown, but services available to residents will be cut back, according to Peter D. Spencer, Social Security's deputy commissioner for budget finance and management.
During a shutdown, local residents will still be able to apply for benefits, change their addresses or make other clerical changes, but will not be able to get replacement Social Security cards, verify benefits or replace Medicare cards, Spencer said. Social Security officials will also not be able to answer questions from third parties or reply to Freedom of Information Act requests.
The state's college students who receive federal financial aid -- and workers being paid through grants -- could be affected, but not immediately.
"With the government shutdown, we should be in good shape and can manage it in the short term. Things like student aid have already been paid for this semester, and come in a lump sum. The fact it's happening at this time in the calendar means it doesn't have much impact," West Virginia University spokesman John Bolt said Monday. "If it goes on for much longer, however, and we get into 45 days or so, we would have to make some other arrangements."
Matt Turner, chief of staff at Marshall University, said the potential for students' financial aid to be affected is not an immediate concern, but said certain employees could face challenges if the shutdown continues.
"What could happen, is if it were to last longer than a few days, it could cause some delay for employees who are paid strictly by federal funding and are doing research for our university," Turner said.Staff writers Mackenzie Mays, Ken Ward Jr. and Kate White contributed to this report. Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169. Reach Rusty Marks at rustyma...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.