DIAMOND, Mo. —
Jim Heaney is no stranger to government shutdowns.
As an employee of the National Park Service during the last shutdown in 1995-96, he saw firsthand the toll it took.
“I was working in Philadelphia at the Edgar Allan Poe house and filling in at Independence National Historical Park,” Heaney said. “We saw several million visitors each year. (The shutdown) was very discouraging, not only to our staff and visitors, but for all of the businesses surrounding the park. The restaurants and hotels were deeply affected. That was a long shutdown.”
Heaney, now the superintendent of George Washington Carver National Monument near Diamond, is seeing it happen again.
“We’re furloughing 13 employees, myself included,” he said Monday, in advance of the shutdown that took effect at midnight. “Obviously, that takes a toll on the workers and their families and any financial obligations they have.
“But we’re also seeing a beloved, very American institution already being chipped away at by budget cuts now shut down.”
The shutdown forced an estimated 800,000 federal workers off the job, and suspended most nonessential federal programs and services. It closed national parks, ranging from Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon to the Buffalo National River and Ozark National Scenic Riverways closer to Joplin. The visitors centers, campgrounds and cabins along the rivers were being closed, and visitors were being given 48 hours to make alternative plans and leave the parks.
The military will be paid under legislation signed Monday by President Barack Obama, but some veterans waiting to have disability benefits approved will have to cool their heels even longer.
And people classified as essential government employees — such as air traffic controllers, Border Patrol agents and most food inspectors — will continue to work
Steve Stockam, manager of the Joplin Regional Airport, said control tower operators at the airport remain on duty for now.
“If the history of past government shutdowns (is) any indication, we expect that contract controllers, just like FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) controllers, will remain on the job ... at least for the short term,” he said in a statement. “If the government shutdown lasts for more than 30 days, the continued operation of contract towers would be re-evaluated.”
Seniors and others who receive Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits also were being told not to worry.
A statement regarding the federal government shutdown was posted on the website of the Social Security Administration. It said there will be no interruption for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income payments, and field offices will remain open for services such as helping people apply for benefits, changing an address, accepting reports of death and replacing a lost or missing payment. Offices will not be able to issue new or replacement Social Security cards, replace Medicare cards or issue proof-of-income letters.
The National Fish Hatchery at Neosho has closed. All scheduled events and activities have been canceled, said Chuck Traxler, spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Minneapolis, Minn.
Traxler said minimal staff at the hatchery will be used to maintain the fish at the site.
“We will have staff working to maintain public safety and public property at the site,” he said. “Everyone else is furloughed.”
The hatchery employs nine people.
Agencies such as NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency will be all but shuttered.
But, the cleanup of mining sites in Jasper County overseen by the EPA will not be affected by the shutdown, said Mark Doolan, manager of the Jasper County Superfund Site.
“The shutdown will have no effect at all. The money for the cleanup is already appropriated,’’ Doolan said in a recent telephone interview.
The National Weather Service station in Springfield also remains open.
Maj. Tammy Spicer, a public affairs officer with the Missouri National Guard, said the message from Adjutant Gen. Stephen L. Danner is that “under all circumstances, including this government shutdown, the Missouri National Guard is prepared and able to respond to state emergency missions as ordered by the governor.”
Beyond that, Spicer said, the Guard is analyzing the 1,400 federal technicians employed around the state to determine how many of those will remain at work and how many will be sent home for the duration of the shutdown. Spicer said the Guard has postponed this weekend’s planned drill because of the shutdown. It will be rescheduled when things return to normal.
Calls to the local office of Head Start were not returned Tuesday.
NEW PATIENTS won’t be accepted into clinical research at the National Institutes of Health, including 255 trials for cancer patients, although, as part of the Affordable Care Act, health insurance markets across the country began accepting customers Tuesday for coverage that begins in January.
Source: The Associated Press
DIAMOND, Mo. —
Jim Heaney is no stranger to government shutdowns.
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