Saturday, November 22, 2014

Area lakes among first hit by feds’ shutdown

By ABBY ECKEL and By DOUG CARDER, Herald Staff Writers | 10/2/2013

Some essential job duties just won’t be getting done for a while, David Green said.

Green, operations project manager for Pomona and Melvern lakes, said eight employees have been furloughed, meaning they won’t be able to work and will not get paid because of the government shutdown, and only two employees will be left to keep the lakes and park running.

Some essential job duties just won’t be getting done for a while, David Green said.

Green, operations project manager for Pomona and Melvern lakes, said eight employees have been furloughed, meaning they won’t be able to work and will not get paid because of the government shutdown, and only two employees will be left to keep the lakes and park running.

“There are things that just aren’t going to get done,” Green said. “With only two of us working, we’re going to have to pick and choose the most essential parts of the jobs and even then some essential parts will not be completed due to staff being gone.”

Green is one of two employees who will be forced to work to maintain the park and lakes, he said, but won’t be getting paid for his work, and neither will his employees who have been furloughed.

More than 800,000 of the estimated 2.1 million federal employees, representing dozens of federal agencies, were furloughed when the government shut down at midnight Tuesday after Congress failed to pass a spending bill to keep the government running.

Many, but not all workers at Pomona Lake have been furloughed, Green said. Since part of Pomona Lake and Park is owned and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a government-funded entity, boat ramps, camp sites and other amenities will be closed until further notice, he said. Other areas of the lake and park that have been leased out, such as the parts operated by Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, will remain open.

“We are completely open at the Pomona State Park,” Casey Smithson, park manager at Pomona Lake, said. “We’re taking everyone that we can get.”

At the federally operated part of the park, calls already have been made to let people know their reservations have been canceled, Green said.

“We’ve contacted several people, but have not got to everybody,” Green said. “[Staff] will either cancel reservations or work with them on getting them refunds.”

All other federal parks and national museums that receive federal funding will not be open to the public during the shutdown either.

The shutdown disrupted a wide range of government services that were put on indefinite hold. Because of furloughs, new applications for Social Security benefits and Medicare will not be processed, government officials have said.

“Unfortunately, Congress has not fulfilled its responsibility,” President Obama said in a video address to military personnel. “It has failed to pass a budget and, as a result, much of our government must now shut down until Congress funds it again.”

The shutdown will continue to loom until the Republican-run House and the Democrat-controlled Senate can come to an agreement. The shutdown happened because a spending bill wasn’t passed by the House and Senate. The House first attempted to pass a spending bill that maintained current spending levels, but didn’t provide any funding for Obamacare, or the Affordable Health Care Act. The Senate voted against the bill, and the two parties had yet to come to an agreement as of late Wednesday.

Those looking to buy a home have had their loan applications come to a halt because of the shutdown, Sharon Bollin said.

“Right now, I have two rural development loans trying to close, but can’t because rural development is closed,” Bollin, vice president and mortgage loan manager at Arvest Bank, 119 E. Third St., Ottawa, said.

“They’re not able to give me a conditional approval, so it’s affecting the approval process for any government loans — FHA [Federal Housing Administration], rural development and VA [Veterans Affairs],” Bollin said.

How long the shutdown lasts will impact on how great the effects are on the housing market, Bollin said.

“It’s like a trickle-down theory,” Bollin said. “Right now, people wanting to try and apply for a loan, they may be hesitant now because depending on their job, they might not be getting paid and could be worried about verification of pay during this time frame and worried it may take longer than what they’re anticipating to get approved for a loan.”

Those looking to refinance a home loan are in the same boat, Bollin said.

“Part of a refinance includes getting Social Security verification,” she said. “[The shutdown] is impacting those people as well because a government verification is closed. It’s just a nightmare for people, and we’re just at a loss because it’s out of our control, and we hate that for the borrower.”

While active-duty military personnel will remain on duty, others, such as members of the Kansas National Guard, have been furloughed without pay, Sharon Watson, public affairs for the Adjutant General’s Department, said. It’s also unknown if those employees currently furloughed will receive retroactive pay once the shutdown ends, she added.

“We have about 2,100 full-time employees including Army and Air Guard,” Watson said. “Of those 2,100, 700 fall into a position category that was furloughed effective [Tuesday], and six work at the Ottawa National Guard Armory.”

Most Kansas National Guard soldiers and airmen will not be attending monthly drill this weekend as a result of the current shutdown, a press release from the Adjutant General’s Department said.

While the shutdown has forced many federally funded entities to do just that — shut down — others will continue on as usual.

Neither snow nor rain ... nor government shutdown will keep U.S. mail carriers from making their appointed rounds. Emergency 911 agencies also will continue to operate through the shutdown. Likewise, those already receiving Social Security payments will continue to do so, as will people who currently receive unemployment checks and food stamps, according to media reports.

Enrollment in new health care exchanges also will be possible during the shutdown, a section of President Obama’s health care law that was not affected by the shutdown.

Programs offered through East Central Kansas Economic Opportunity Corp. aren’t expected to experience any problems either, Richard Jackson, chief executive officer, said.

“We’re good for a month,” Jackson said. “And I don’t see the shutdown lasting more than a month. Everything I’m hearing from people is we’re maybe looking at three weeks.

While Congress and the president will continue to be paid during the shutdown, in accordance with federal law, at least 85 U.S. lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., have asked to have their pay withheld during the shutdown.

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