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Government shutdown hits Kitsap County hard
The shutdown of the federal government at midnight on Tuesday has created huge impacts in Kitsap County.
Approximately 3,500 workers at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility were furloughed Tuesday. Captain James Lee, the Acting Commander at PSNS & IMF, took to Facebook Monday night to warn workers about what was in store following Congress’ failure to reach a compromise to keep federal agencies funded.
“It is difficult for me to give you news of what will occur tomorrow if government funding expires tonight, and I want to make it clear that furlough decisions are directed by law, not the Navy,” Lee wrote. “They are not a reflection of the importance of your work, the hard effort you put forth every day, or your dedicated service to PSNS & IMF and our nation.”
Congressman Derek Kilmer bemoaned the shutdown on Tuesday and announced that he will give up his pay for the duration of the shutdown.
“The fact that some in Congress would risk a shutdown in order to score political points demonstrates why Congress is currently held in lower regard than head lice,” Kilmer said. “I’m voluntarily giving up my own pay during this shutdown because I believe in leading by example. Unfortunately, many federal employees in our region unfortunately won’t have a say about losing theirs. They’ll be furloughed and lose pay through no fault of their own. These employees and the folks who depend on their work deserve better.”
Kilmer’s office says that the government shutdown will cause roughly half of the government’s civilian workforce, about 1.2 million employees to face furloughs. Additionally, national parks will close, veterans’ disability payments may be disrupted, and there will be a suspension of approval of applications for Small Business Loans. It is estimated that a government shutdown will cost taxpayers $150 million a day. Kilmer’s office also noted that one of his first actions in Congress was to break with members of his party to vote for a plan called No Budget, No Pay – a plan that would withhold pay from Members of Congress if Congress doesn’t pass a budget.
The 3,500 furloughed shipyard workers are described as “non-excepted” and they were placed in non-duty, non-pay status and are not allowed to work on a voluntary basis.
The effects of the shutdown go beyond the shipyard, though. At Naval Base Kitsap, 97 of 453 civilian employees have been furloughed, according to Chief Petty Officer Daniel Pearson, public affairs officer for Navy Region Northwest. Employees assigned to fire and emergency services are not furloughed; Naval Base Kitsap has six fire stations and two police stations. At Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest, “137 employees will be receiving a furlough letter sometime today,” public affairs officer Leslie Yuenger said Tuesday. NAVFAC NW headquarters is located on Naval Base Kitsap — Bangor.
The federal shutdown’s impact at the Department of Social and Health Services is still evolving.
“At this time, benefits for state Department of Social and Health Services clients receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Basic Food benefits will continue through the end of October,” reports Kathy Spears, DSHS public affairs media relations manager. “In addition, Medicare, Medicaid and child support payments are not affected by a federal government shutdown at this time. All DSHS offices remain open. As discussions continue in Washington, D.C., information on other federal programs administered by DSHS is evolving.”
Things at the Employment Security Department and WorkSource are also somewhat up in the air, depending on how long the shutdown lasts.
“WorkSource centers and most of the employment services will remain available beyond next Monday, since the bulk of the funding is currently available to us,” reports Sheryl Hutchison, communications director of the Employment Security Department. “We’ve decided to use our limited state funds to continue processing unemployment claims for the time being. We will have to revisit this decision if the shutdown lasts more than a few weeks.”
Hutchison added, “Throughout this week, we will continue to assess which Employment Security and WorkSource functions will or won’t continue to operate if the federal shutdown continues beyond Oct. 7.”