Augusta area sees limited impact from shutdown

The federal workforce in Augusta and surrounding areas saw minor impacts after the government officially shut down at midnight Friday.

 

Before Congress voted Monday to reopen the government, Ben Morgan, president of Transport Workers Union Local 527, was pleased to find members who work in maintenance, logistics and health care at Fort Gordon already at work.

Contracts with the post had already been funded until the end of January but, in light of Friday’s shutdown, Morgan said he is almost certain “things will change.”

“We seem to face this type of thing a lot, but usually the government does not shut down,” he said. “I thought this time there was a very good chance it would happen.”

Although service members were able to work a full business day Monday, all temporary assignments and activities at Fort Gordon were placed on hold.

“Congressional appropriations expired on Friday, which will require that Fort Gordon activities not deemed excepted nor exempted to conduct an orderly shutdown in accordance with federal law,” a news release from Saturday stated. “Despite the lapse in appropriated federal funding, the Army and Fort Gordon will continue to provide for the nation’s defense, as well as the life, health, and safety of our employees and the protection of the installation.”

Other federal offices were closed Monday morning. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Services office, located in the Augusta Utilities and Engineering building, had a sign on the door stating it would reopen when Congress restored funding.

The shutdown would have briefly halted field work being done by U.S. Census employees ahead of the 2020 census, but it did not affect ongoing background census work being done regionally and by local governments, said Andy Crosson, executive director of the CSRA Regional Commission.

The shutdown also did not have an impact on senior nutrition programs administered by the Regional Commission and the CSRA Area Agency on Aging, but had it continued for more than a week or so, the agencies would need to discuss arrangements to cover the programs until the shutdown ended, Crosson said.

Jeanette Cummings, the director of the Area Agency on Aging, said the program could have been covered for up to several months.

“We have a mixture of funding and strong local support from the CSRA and local government that helps,” she said.

The U.S. government hasn’t shut down since 2013, when nearly 800,000 federal workers were put on furlough as members of Congress tried to force changes to the Affordable Care Act.

The issue now focuses on immigration policy, specifically the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which gave protection to immigrants brought to the U.S. as undocumented children by their parents or other adults.

Morgan said hopes now are for elected officials to pass a standing agreement that addresses their issues.

“I do hope that they pass a continue resolution or budget to keep the government working, but I hope all issues are addressed,” he said. “I think it is horrible that people want to put it on the back burner.”

Michael Glenn had similar desires. The 57-year-old Air Force veteran said the shutdown had less effect on him now than before, but still brings about the same frustration for many in service.

“That’s still not enough,” he said about Monday’s compromise. “I just wish they’d finish the darn job. We’re all getting tired of it.”

Staff Writer Susan McCord contributed to this article.

What happened:

The U.S. government shutdown began at midnight Friday as Democrats and Republicans failed to resolve a standoff over immigration and spending. The shutdown continued Saturday and Sunday as elected officials failed to agree on spending measures.

On Monday, elected officials came to a compromise to approve a temporary spending bill and reopen the government to continue funding until Feb. 8. The measure needed 60 votes and Democrats provided 33 of the 81 it got. Eighteen senators, including members of both parties, were opposed.

Republican statements on the funding bill’s passage

“I am relieved that my Senate Democratic colleagues finally did what was right and joined Republicans to vote to fund the government. It is simply inexcusable that they kept funding for our troops and this government hostage for the past three days. We heard their message loud and clear ‘illegal immigrants are more important than American citizens’ – and that is just plain wrong.”

—Rep. Rick Allen

“I am grateful that Senate Democrats have finally recognized how crucial it is to fund our military and support American families across the country. Our men and women in uniform should never be treated like pawns in a political game. While the government has reopened, our work has just begun. I look forward to working with Speaker Paul Ryan and Chairman Mac Thornberry to achieve a long-term defense spending bill before the Feb. 8 funding deadline. It is imperative our troops receive the funding they deserve in order to adequately prepare for the unending threats facing our nation. They are the defenders of our freedoms and it is time we funded them as such.”

— Rep. Joe Wilson

“I am relieved that Senate Democrats have allowed us to reopen the government. Shutting down the government was a terrible idea – it always is – and it is the wrong way to govern. I’m also pleased that we have finally passed a six-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Thankfully, we can now focus on the work that lies ahead.”

— Sen. Johnny Isakson

 

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