Civilian military employees to take brunt of shutdown in Beaufort County

mmcnab@beaufortgazette.comSeptember 30, 2013 

More than 1,200 civilian defense employees could be sent home from work Tuesday in Beaufort County, casualties of the federal government shutdown.

Up to 1,200 civilian workers at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort alone could be furloughed Tuesday morning, Sgt. Marcy Sanchez said.

And Sue Partridge, president of the local American Federation of Government Employees union, said 60 percent of her chapter's membership -- about 480 people -- will be furloughed.

"They're holding us hostage," Partridge said. "We still have more furloughs coming next year, and we haven't got raises in four years. Meanwhile, insurance has gone up every year. Now we're in the middle of a lot of drama in Washington. It hasn't been a good day."

Partridge said she was worried about the possibility of the shutdown dragging on, especially after employees had to serve the last of six sequester-mandated furlough days less than a month ago.

For others, however, it will be business as usual.

Civilian workers considered essential -- firefighters and air-traffic controllers, for example -- will continue working, Partridge said.

Nationwide, about half of all civilian employees could be furloughed until Congress comes to a budget resolution, according to Department of Defense spokesman Cmdr. Bill Urban.

Furloughed employees will report to work Tuesday, when they will receive furlough notices and have four hours to conduct an "orderly government shutdown," Urban said. That could mean anything from securing government property to simply setting up an out-of-office message on phones and email, he added.

Active-military personnel will not be affected by the shutdown and will continue to work. Although their paychecks could be delayed, Urban said, service members would be paid retroactively after Congress has resolved the budget issue.

However, furloughed employees would not get retroactive pay without an act of Congress. Urban noted such measures have been passed after previous shutdowns.

In Beaufort County, the civilian defense workforce will bear the brunt of a shutdown, but local extensions of the federal government might also be affected:

  • Some government-backed housing loans could be delayed, Beaufort mortgage broker Bob Cummins said. Some documents required for application -- copies of tax transcripts and Social Security verifications, for example -- can't be delivered to the closed government offices.
  • Both the Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge near Hilton Head Island and the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge near Hardeeville will close Tuesday, said Savannah Coastal Refuge Complex project leader Jane Griess. Five other wildlife refuges run by the complex also will close, as will other national parks and federally operated museums across the country. Law enforcement personnel and others deemed "essential" -- those who protect wildlife and the refuge land, for example -- would be exempt, according to Griess.
  • Social Security and Medicare benefits will continue. But some services, like issuing new or replacement cards, will cease during the shutdown.
  • The U.S. Postal Service won't be affected. That includes its passport services, housed in four post offices around the county. However, passport offices in federal buildings elsewhere will be shut down because the buildings will be closed.

Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.


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Video playlist: Federal government shutdown crisis

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