Government shutdown impacts local agencies

The Capitol is seen on a rainy morning in Washington during a partial government shutdown. President Donald Trump is threatening to close the U.S. border with Mexico if Democrats in Congress don’t agree to fund the construction of a border wall. Trump tweeted Friday morning that “We will be forced to close the Southern Border entirely,” unless a funding deal is reached with “the Obstructionist Democrats.” Trump’s demand for money to build the border wall and Democrats’ refusal to give him what he wants has caused a partial government shutdown that is nearly a week old. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

MANISTEE — As the year comes to a close and many families prepare for the new year, residents all over the country continue to be impacted by the government shutdown, which began on Dec. 22.

With Congress adjourning for the holiday season, there is no resolution in sight, and it is anticipated the shutdown will stretch into at least the start of the new year when Democrats retake control of the House.

While the impact is clear from a national perspective, many local agencies are also affected.

U.S. Coast Guard Station Manistee will continue operations throughout the government shutdown, although coast guardsmen face the possibility of not receiving a paycheck until the beginning of next year. (News Advocate file photo)

Petty officer Adrian Ledesma, with the U.S. Coast Guard Station Manistee, said Coast Guard operations in the area and across the country will see very little impact due to the shutdown.

“All coast guardsmen are still on duty despite the temporary lapse in funding, and we are maintaining the same diligence that we do year-round,” he said. “My crew and I are on duty right now, and we still maintain our search and rescue readiness for ice rescue and waterborne missions.”

The Coast Guard Station Manistee also serves Frankfort and Ludington areas through the winter months.

Despite operations continuing as usual, coast guardsmen may not receive paychecks until the start of 2019, but they could likely see that money in their next paycheck.

“One big concern is individual coast guardsmen possibly not receiving their paychecks for a while,” said Ledesma. “We want to assure people that our commands are assisting individuals and helping them seek out financial resources such as low or no interest loans, and other assistance to make sure that ourselves and our families are taken care of.”

United Way of Manistee County is helping to ensure coast guardsmen have adequate food supplies during this difficult time and is collecting food and monetary donations.

Donations can be dropped off at the United Way office at 449 River St. in Manistee. For money donations, please mark in the note section “Coast Guard.” The office can be reached at (231) 723-2331.

The Coast Guard is funded by the Department of Homeland Security, so they are the only responders in the area who are going without pay during the shutdown.

“Our local counterparts, such as the fire department, local law enforcement agencies, and other volunteer fire departments in the area won’t see the impact because they are all funded by either local government or the state,” he said. “They are also trained up with the same emergency response techniques that we are, so they are also able to make timely responses to any rescues needed on ice or water as much as we are.”

Other local offices will be impacted, such as the Huron-Manistee National Forests Cadillac/Manistee ranger station and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) field office in Scottville.

The Huron-Manistee National Forests’ website includes the following banner headline: “Due to a lapse in federal funding, this USDA website will not be actively updated. Once funding has been reestablished, online operations will continue.”

It is unclear whether maintenance is continuing at the forest. A spokesman for the office could not be reached for comment.

According to a release issued by the USDA, some activities will be shut down or significantly reduced and some USDA employees will be furloughed. However, certain activities will continue because they are related to law enforcement, the protection of life and property or are financed through available funding.

“There may be a lapse in funding for the federal government, but that will not relieve USDA of its responsibilities for safeguarding life and property through the critical services we provide,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “Our employees work hard every day to benefit our customers and the farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers who depend on our programs. During a shutdown, we will leverage our existing resources as best we can to continue to provide the top-notch service people expect.”

Many national parks also have closed while some have limited facilities.

Guided snowshoe hikes at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which are an annual event that takes place during the week of Christmas and in early January, have been canceled until further notice.

The Lakeshore will remain as open as possible, with people still able to use trails and visit beaches and the dunes, according to information from the Lakeshore.

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) remains open during government shutdowns.

“Because we are an independent entity that is funded through the sale of our products and services, and not by tax dollars, our services will not be impacted by a government shutdown,” USPS spokeswoman Sabrina Todd said.

Roughly federal 420,000 workers were deemed essential and are working unpaid, unable to take any sick days or vacation. An additional 380,000 are staying home without pay. While furloughed federal workers have been given back pay in previous shutdowns, it’s not guaranteed. The Senate passed a bill last week to make sure workers will be paid. The House will probably follow suit.

The shutdown impacts nine of 15 Cabinet-level departments and dozens of agencies, including the departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, Interior, Agriculture, State and Justice.

President Donald Trump has said he will not sign a spending plan, which would end the shutdown, if it didn’t include $5 billion to build a wall on the southern border of the U.S. The GOP-led House passed a bill that included his request, but the measure failed in the Senate.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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