Budget showdown: Federal government hits speed bump
Erin Smith Staff writer
ELIZABETHTOWN — With federal employees facing furloughs Tuesday afternoon, many local offices and businesses were carrying with business as usual.
All federal services that are deemed as “non-essential” have been suspended. According to reports, all federally funded museums such as the Smithsonian, will close as well as all of the nation’s national parks and national monuments, including Moore’s Creek National Battlefield near Currie. Some federal agency websites are also offline as a result of the shutdown.
According to the office of Management and Budget, those employees who are required to work during the shutdown will be paid back pay for their time worked once normal operations resume. Also, federal employees who questions regarding their status or whether or not to report to work during the shutdown, can contact their agency’s human resources office for guidance, according to the OMB.
Attempts to reach the county chairmen for the Republican and Democrat parties were unsuccessful.
Elizabethtown Town Manager Eddie Madden said that the shutdown of the federal government will likely have very little, if any, impact on the town. He did add three projects currently under way in the town are being financed with federal funds.
“We do have some Community Development Block Grant projects in process. We’re in the closeout stages and all the funds have been expended,” said Madden.
The Tall Oaks project is in the final stages, with sidewalk construction remaining to be completed, said Madden.
“It is possible we may have to extend the let date if the shutdown continues,” said Madden. “In the interim, we could keep the project going with interim financing of our own and then apply for reimbursement.”
Another project the town has in progress is the airport project. Madden said that project is financed with some federal funding as well, but the town staff has not received any notifications of any changes to the funding from the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Aviation Division which is overseeing disbursement of the funds.
The town also has one contract employee position funded with a FEMA grant.
“The FEMA position is reimbursed on a quarterly basis. It is highly likely if the shutdown is in place when the board meets on Monday, Oct. 7, well probably have to take it up at the meeting,” said Madden.
Director of Health and Human Services Chris Harrelson said that as of Tuesday afternoon, there have been no negative impacts for his department due to the federal shutdown. He said everything was still operating as per normal scheduling.
“We haven’t heard anything differently from our state consultants,” said Harrelson.
He also added that the situation could change at any time, but as of Tuesday, all operations are continuing as normal.
Tuesday afternoon, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr announced that he is closing all of his offices in North Carolina due to the furlough. They are located in Wilmington, Asheville, Winston Salem, Gastonia and Rocky Mount. His office in Washington, D.C., will continue to operate but with a greatly reduced staff, according to a news release.
U.S. Congressman Mike McIntyre announced his offices will remain open during the furlough, according to WSFX channel 26 in Wilmington.
This is the second time in 17 years the government has been shutdown due to an impasse in Congress regarding the federal budget. The last shutdown took place while President Bill Clinton held office, from November 1995 to January 1996, according to the New York Daily News.
The shutdown comes as a much larger fight is looming on the horizon. Thursday, Oct. 17, is the deadline for Congress to take action on whether or not to increase the national debt ceiling once more. With the inability of Congress to reach an agreement on the federal budget, there are those pundits who fear that debt ceiling fight could pose an even more troubling problem as both Republicans and Democrats refuse to budge and remain divided ideologically on the issue.
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