- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
From selling meat to defending the country, the federal government shutdown has affected jobs and families in Charles County.
U.S. Census data from 2011 on the county website show that 35.2 percent of county workers are employed by all levels of government. There’s no breakdown available of federal workers.
The data state that 3,158 people worked at Naval Support Facility Indian Head, but some of them are essential personnel and are not out of work as a result of the shutdown.
The U.S. Congress was unable to come to a deal to fund the federal government and effectively shut it down midnight Monday.
In the wake of the shutdown, federal agencies and the courts will have to decide what positions are considered essential and nonessential. Those deemed nonessential will be furloughed, which is basically an indefinite, unpaid vacation.
Those deemed essential will be asked to come to work; however, they will not be paid for the duration of the shutdown. Congress would decide whether they are paid after the fact.
David W. Hancock Jr., president of the Charles County Farm Bureau, said the shutdown will have an effect on area farmers, especially those who engage in direct retail. Hancock explained that right now the one area he sees as having an effect is with the small farmers who direct retail cuts of meat.
Hancock said the meat has to be processed through a U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified facility. A long shutdown, he said, could cause farmers not to be able to have their meats processed and inspected.
He said depending on how long the shutdown lasts, “the whole commercial meat industry could be drastically affected by [the shutdown].”
Hancock said additionally, many farmers in the area engage in direct retail and down the road, with many of their customers being government employees possibly unable to buy from the farmer.
“We’ll feel it in our pocket,” he said. “We hope our leaders get their act together and compromise on a deal that is beneficial to all American people.”
All Naval Support Activity South Potomac public affairs staff members are affected by the shutdown, according to Gary Wagner, public affairs officer for NSASP, and will not be permitted to return to work until a budget or a continuing resolution is passed.
Police, fire and emergency medical protection will remain available, Wagner said in a statement. NSF Indian Head and Naval Support Facility Dahlgren will not close their gates.
“During a lapse, [Department of Defense] cannot pay the members of our military and our employees, even if they have been directed to work,” Wagner said. “In the event of a lapse, all of our military personnel will be directed to continue in a normal duty status. Their employment contracts are such that they cannot be placed in nonpay status. Military service members would be paid retroactively once the lapse of appropriations ends.”
Civilian employees, however, who support “excepted activities,” such as military operations, emergency services “or other activities that support these efforts will be directed to continue working,” Wagner said. Civilian employees who support “nonexcepted activities” have been placed on emergency furlough, and will be paid retroactively “only if a law is enacted providing authority to pay them.”
Training and travel of all employees is disrupted unless the employee supports an “excepted activity.” All employees supporting “nonexcepted activities” who are on travel must return to their command.
“Warfare Centers, as Defense Working Capital Funds, are exempt from the furlough, therefore Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology Division staff will continue under normal operations supporting customer orders, subject to the availability of sufficient fund balances,” said Monica McCoy, public affairs officer for NSWC IHEODTD.
McCoy said that most of the workforce at NSWC IHEODTD “is reporting as normal.” A working capital fund already is budgeted by the Department of Defense, and not affected by a government shutdown, she said.
Morale Welfare and Recreation facilities, such as child care centers, fitness centers and libraries will maintain normal operating hours, Wagner said, because employees at the facilities are paid by nonappropriated funds and not affected by the lack of a budget appropriation.
Employees at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Lexington Park faced similar strictures, according to base officials.
In a statement issued Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md., 5th) said he was “deeply disappointed” that Congress failed to reach an agreement to fund the government and prevent a shutdown.
“The Senate has passed a compromise funding measure, without partisan amendments, three times. Yet, House Republicans refuse to bring it to the Floor for a vote and have instead wasted time pursuing a partisan strategy to undermine the Affordable Care Act,” Hoyer said according to the statement. “As a result, over 800,000 hardworking federal employees, including 62,000 men and women in my district, are facing furloughs, and Americans will see many important services significantly curtailed or interrupted.”
Hoyer continued that the shutdown is harmful to the economy, national security, businesses and working families.
A separate press release from Hoyer’s office states he is co-sponsoring the Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act, which would allow all federal employees to receive retroactive pay for the duration of the shutdown, regardless of individual furlough status.
Federal employee pay is suspended in the event of a funding lapse or government shutdown, according to the press release. Retroactive payment for nonessential and essential employees must be approved through the legislative process by congress.
“It is unacceptable that Congress’s failure to reach a responsible agreement to fund the government will force federal workers to stay home without pay rather than serve the American people,” Hoyer said in the press release. “Our hardworking federal workforce … should not have to face furloughs. Like so many other Americans, they have mortgages to meet, college tuitions to pay, and families to support.”
The lead co-sponsors are U.S. Reps. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Frank Wolf (R-Va.), the release states, and they are joined by U.S. Reps. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Rob Wittman (R-Va.), John Sarbanes (D-Md.), Donna Edwards (D-Md.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Scott Rigell (R-Va.) and John Delaney (D-Md.).
The state estimates each day of the shutdown could result in the loss of $15 million in economic activity and $5 million in tax revenue.
In a statement, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) laid blame at the feet of congressional Republicans and said the shutdown will harm federal employees along with state businesses in the health, aerospace and defense sectors.
“In this year’s Maryland budget, we worked with the General Assembly to set aside funds to lessen the impact of sequestration — another needless blow struck by Congress,” O’Malley said in the statement. “We have flexibility on how to use these funds, and we’re actively assessing all of our options so that we can minimize the harmful effects of prolonged Congressional recklessness on Maryland families and businesses.”
In an email to all members of the Southern Maryland Realtors Association, SMAR Government Affairs Director Paula Martino wrote, “The bottom line on how this might affect real estate transactions is we expect minimal disruption. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has announced that the FHA Single Family Program will continue operations. [Federal National Mortgage Association and Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation] as Government Sponsored Entities will not be affected.”
The email explained that the Office of Single Family Housing will endorse new loans under current multiyear appropriation authority. Tthe FHA Call Center and the National Servicing Center’s Call Center will remain open.
Martino said in a phone interview that for the Rural Housing Program, those who already have received a conditional commitment are able to proceed and close on those loans during the shutdown.
Accokeek Foundation spokeswoman Anjela Barnes said that Piscataway Park, which houses the National Colonial Farm, which receives foundation support, was closed by the shutdown.
“The gates to Piscataway Park, including the National Colonial and Ecosystem Farms ... as well as all public access to the visitor facilities for recreation and programming has been closed,” Barnes wrote in an email. “Further impacts of the shutdown include the cancellation of scheduled school tours, programs, and activities at the park. We have made arrangements to continue the distribution of the Ecosystem Farm [community supported agriculture produce distribution] at a nearby homeowner association’s venue. Essential personnel are on site taking care of the park’s resources including the livestock, farm crops, and site and building security.”
Barnes wrote that a 15-student home-schooler group was denied a field trip Tuesday by the shutdown, and Washington Christian Academy and Clinton Christian Academy were warned that their scheduled tours later this week were jeopardized by the shutdown.
At the Thomas Stone National Historic Site on Tuesday morning, a park ranger who did not wish to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the press said the park’s public facilities would close at noon.
The Port Tobacco park is one of the sites for the 43rd annual U.S. Police Canine Association field trials, a national competition that is scheduled to run until Oct. 4.
Charles County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Diane Richardson said Tuesday afternoon that the site closure would most likely not have an effect on the competition.
The park ranger declined to comment further.
“We’re still recovering from the sequestration,” said Rosemin Daya of Waldorf.
Daya said her husband works for the Department of Defense and as a nonessential employee is not working during the shutdown.
“We’re recovering from the 20 percent cut and now this is no paycheck for who knows how long,” she said.
She said while she works from home, her husband‘s job provides the main source of income for the family of five.
Daya said the family has an emergency fund to draw from but there still will be cutbacks such as no dining out and eliminating some weekend activities. She said the family is OK right now, but it is unclear how long the shutdown will last and how long her husband will be without pay.
In situation like this, Daya said one has to just cross their fingers and hope they have enough saved up to get them through.
This isn’t the case, she said, for many people affected by the shutdown.
“[The shutdown] is going to make things difficult for a lot of people who are having a tough time,” she said.
Staff writers Joel Davis, Sara Newman, Katie Fitzpatrick, Nicole Clark and Jeff Newman contributed to this report.