The federal government shutdown has opened up a Pandora’s box of fear, anger, and suspicion across the nation, with no end in sight for the finger-pointing and fault-finding that has accompanied it. One thing is certain. The shutdown is inconveniencing Americans in a number of unexpected and frustrating ways. While Minnesotans recently weathered their own state government shutdown, which lasted almost three weeks, the current federal version may be far more complex with unknown repercussions for the future.

Open for business?

The federal government’s Department of Transportation (DOT), which oversees the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), is partially shuttered. This means that 50 percent of the FRA’s employees are on furlough, a type of temporary unpaid leave. Thankfully, railroad safety inspectors are still working. In addition, rail construction projects funded with federal dollars will stay on schedule since the funds were designated before the shutdown.

In addition, the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board will continue disbursing benefit payments, with all offices remaining open, but new applications for retirement benefits will not be accepted. The National Mediation Board, which handles disputes between rail workers and management, will not open until funding is restored.

High stakes

While Amtrak is one of the federal services currently actually operating without interruption, experts wonder how long the trains will keep rolling. Twelve percent of Amtrak’s operating budget and other sources of funding comes from the federal DOT, either through payments or reimbursements. If there are no employees staffing the department, the money that keeps Amtrak afloat will cease. Most commentators forecast that a shutdown that lasts more than a few weeks will cripple the passenger carrier.

Those injured on the job or in railroad accidents during or after the shutdown should seek assistance from tenacious attorneys who can determine the precise cause of their injuries and seek the compensation they deserve.