Tag Archives: federal government shutdown

Museum Offers Free Admission To Furloughed Employees And Their Families

CBMM_Furloughed_FreeAdmission (400 x 305)The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBMM) in St. Michaels, MD, has announced it is offering free admission to furloughed federal government employees and their families. Free admission will be offered until the furlough is lifted, and will be extended to family members accompanying the employee on a visit.

“We want to reach out to those most affected by the furlough,” said CBMM’s Vice President of Communications Tracey Munson. “With so many people out of work and a number of the nation’s parks and museums now closed, we thought this would be a meaningful way to make a difference.”

To gain free admission, visitors will need to present an employee or health benefits card, or another form of identification recognizing them as a federal employee.

Funded primarily through private donations, grants, membership and admission revenues, CBMM is dedicated to preserving and exploring the people, history, and environment of the entire Chesapeake Bay. Located along 18-acres of Miles River waterfront in the heart of St. Michaels’ historic district, the museum features the 1879 Hooper Strait Lighthouse, a working boatyard, and several hands-on exhibits and activities for visitors of all ages. For more information about CBMM, visit www.cbmm.org or call 410-745-2916.

In photo: With identification like this shown, furloughed federal employees and their families will be offered free admission to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’s 18-acre waterfront campus and exhibit buildings until the furlough is lifted. The museum is located along the harbor and Miles River in historic St. Michaels, Maryland. Open daily, CBMM features the 1879 Hooper Strait Lighthouse, a working boatyard, and several hands-on exhibits and activities for visitors of all ages. Regular admission is $13 for adults, $10 for seniors, and $6 for children ages 6 through 17. More information is online at www.cbmm.org.

Maryland Schools Scramble as Government Shutdown Affects Field Trips

By SYDNEY PAUL

Capital News Service

COLLEGE PARK – Maryland schools scrambled to reschedule field trips this week after the government shutdown closed the Smithsonian, the National Zoo and other popular federal attractions.

Fifteen German high school exchange students at Bel Air’s The John Carroll School were supposed to tour Capitol Hill and the National Mall on Thursday, but had to settle for peering through locked doors at the National Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of American History.

“They had a very positive experience, but it was a lot of walking,” said Ashleigh Stall, the high school’s German language teacher who accompanied the students. “They said the area looked very empty.”

Stall said the group also took a detour to the the Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial and the John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame, both at Arlington National Cemetery, which remained open despite the shutdown.

“It’s a shame and it makes me sad that it’s going on,” Bel Air resident Maria Wright, who is hosting one of the exchange students, said of the shutdown’s effect on the students. “The whole thing is worrisome.”

School groups from Maryland regularly visit popular Washington attractions like the Smithsonian, the National Zoo and the monuments on the Mall every year. A prolonged shutdown could affect more field trips throughout the fall.

“It was definitely a concern from a planning standpoint,” Stall said. “It was obviously disappointing they didn’t get the experience we planned.”

Schools from several counties, including Harford, Kent and Montgomery, have been affected, teachers and school administrators said in interviews.

School groups from Maryland and across the country have called Washington’s tourism office this week to reschedule trips. Kate Gibbs, media relations manager for Destination DC, said the organization has helped groups find alternative, non-federal sites to visit like Mount Vernon in Virginia.

The government shutdown is also affecting field trips to federal facilities outside of Washington.

This week, five elementary schools in Kent County had to find an alternative to their planned trip to Maryland’s Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, which is federally owned land. The group of 160 students visited the county-owned Sassafras Environmental Education Center instead.

Rock Hall Elementary fourth-grade science teacher Ellen Chamberlin said her students lost a half-hour of instruction time because the drive to the opposite end of the county took longer.

In the end, Chamberlin said, the alternative trip went smoothly because the staff at the Sassafras Environmental Education Center was so accommodating.

“All of our partners were flexible,” she said of the presenters for the field trip.

Ed Silver, Kent County Public School supervisor of human resources, said the shutdown was on their radar last week. They were fortunate to have good partners in the county to help with the shifts in the schedule, he said.

“I was hoping the federal government would be able to resolve the issue,” he said. “ I was appreciative that we were able to get everything switched.”

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CNS 10-4-13

Maryland’s Democratic Members of Congress Rally Federal Workers, Denounce Republicans Over Government Shutdown

By JASON RUITER
Capital News Service

WASHINGTON – Federal employee unions and members of Congress from Maryland, D.C. and Virginia — all Democrats — denounced House Republicans and lamented the financial pain of federal employees caused by the government shutdown during a press conference outside the Capitol Tuesday afternoon.

In a political game of chicken, congressional Republicans sought this week to pass a spending bill that also defunded the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. Because Democrats refused to budge and Republicans held fast on the legislation to defund Obamacare — parts of which went into effect Tuesday — nearly 800,000 federal employees were furloughed from work.

“We’re here because we’re concerned about the operation of the United States government,” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Mitchellville. “We represent a lot of federal employees” in our districts.

Hoyer called Republicans “irrational” and “unreasonable” and said that if members of Congress were a board of directors in a public corporation, “stockholders would fire us.”

In addition to Hoyer, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore; Rep. John Delaney, D-Potomac; Democratic D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., were surrounded by members from several unions carrying signs that read “We Want To Work!”

“Many see this is as a beltway issue” which is not true, said Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union. “Eighty percent (of federal employees) work outside the beltway.”

Polling conducted by Quinnipiac University last week shows that although Americans are ambivalent about Obamacare, three-fourths disapprove of using a government shutdown as political leverage.

“Republicans have dug themselves a hole,” Cummings said.

Rep. Andy Harris, R-Cockeysville, Maryland’s lone Republican member of Congress, could not be reached for comment Tuesday. The voicemail in his Washington office had a message saying: “In case of a lapse of appropriated funds…normal operations of the United States government would be suspended until funding is restored…we may not be able to answer the phone.”

Harris released a statement Monday saying he’d vote in favor of a resolution which would delay an individual mandate to purchase an Obamacare health insurance package.

Octavia Hall, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1401 at Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility in southern Maryland, showed up to work Tuesday, opened a letter, and read that she wasn’t needed.

“To be honest, they always threaten to do something like this. We were kind of in disbelief,” Hall said. Hall, who lives in Hoyer’s district in Waldorf and has worked for the federal government for 20 years, lives paycheck to paycheck.

“That means I have no savings account. Nothing set aside,” she said. “It really hit in reality. It changed the way I think about life and how I spend my money and how I need to save more.”

Including Tuesday, Hall has been furloughed seven days this year. She plans to look for a second job to offset the costs and says her co-workers are in similar situations.

According to the Quinnipiac University poll, 58 percent of Americans blame both parties for the gridlock in Washington. Twenty-eight percent blame Republicans and 10 percent blame Democrats.

“I think everybody played a part in this,” Hall said. “We’re just like pawns.”

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CNS 10-01-2013

Federal Government Shutdown Would Hurt Workers, Maryland Economy

By ROBBIE FEINBERG, CHRISTOPHER NEELY and PETER SCLAFANI
Capital News Service

WASHINGTON – A possible government shutdown starting Tuesday would cause federal agencies in Maryland to close or seriously cut back operations, resulting in significant hardship for federal workers, as well as declining economic output and lower tax revenue for the state.

A shutdown is possible because House Republicans have tied government funding in the new fiscal year to delaying or defunding the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

“I was furloughed two days this summer,” said Pentagon police officer and Maryland resident Robert Voss. “I can’t afford to lose two more weeks of work. I’m a single father. Two weeks is a long time to go without a paycheck.”

Daraius Irani, executive director of Towson University’s Regional Economic and Studies Institute, said that a shutdown could lead to days or weeks of lost income and productivity from Maryland’s roughly 90,000 federal workers and 180,000 federal contractors.

Irani found that depending on how many of those workers are furloughed, the total loss of income per day to families in Maryland would fall between $18 million and $68 million. That is about 3 to 7 percent of Maryland’s total daily income.

Irani said that while that number is small, it can add up quickly, like it did in the government’s 21-day shutdown from 1995 to 1996.

“Once you go into day 10, it begins to feel like a real number,” Irani said. “And for the state, this means that you have another headwind, a manufactured crisis that you’re creating that’s going to negatively impact Maryland and Virginia and D.C.”

Irani added that Maryland will lose between $700,000 and $2.5 million every day in income taxes, and the state’s economic output will fall between $24 million and $89 million each day.

“It will adversely affect our economy, national security and our operations of government,” Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said this week. “We have a lot of government employees who will be told not to come to work and who will not be paid.”

MILITARY INSTALLATIONS

Military bases throughout Maryland will continue to operate even if the government shuts down next Tuesday. Department of Defense Under Secretary Robert Hale said military members will be instructed to continue to carry out their obligations.

Although military members will still report for duty, supporting activities that do not actively contribute to the “safety of life and preservation of property” will be suspended. Military training exercises, recruitment and routine maintenance tasks may come to a halt if the government shuts down next week.

MARYLAND’S COURTS

Among the agencies affected by a possible shutdown is the Department of Justice, and specifically the federal court system. Charles Hall, a spokesman for the U.S. District Courts in Maryland, said the effects will likely not be felt until mid-October.

“Our shutdown is going to take a couple of weeks,” Hall said. “Unlike some agencies, we have some fee and carry-over money from previous years to keep the lights on and courts running for (about) two weeks into October.”

In the wake of a government shutdown, federal agencies such as the courts will have to decide what positions are considered essential and non-essential. Those deemed non-essential will be furloughed, which is basically an indefinite, non-paid vacation.

Those deemed essential will be asked to come to work, however, they will not be paid for the duration of the shutdown. Congress would decide whether they are paid after the fact.

When the courts do run out of money, cuts will be made. Hall said decisions about essential and non-essential positions will be made by each court’s Chief Justice.

In total, roughly 85 percent of the Department of Justice will stay on the job during a potential shutdown.

OTHER AGENCIES

Another agency that will use carryover funds to continue operating after the October 1 deadline is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, based in Rockville.

Holly Harrington, a spokeswoman, said the agency is not sure exactly how long it will stay open, but it should be able to operate for at least a short period using unspent money from previous years.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, based in Silver Spring, will lose about half of its staff in the face of a shutdown. According to a recent Commerce Department document outlining its shutdown plan, roughly 6,600 NOAA employees would stay on the job.

Most of those workers would come from the National Weather Service, which is required to continue functioning because its work can identify “imminent threats to protect life and property.” In addition, about 500 employees from the National Marine Fisheries Service, which regulates and enforces laws related to marine wildlife, would also stay on the job.

However, even with those exceptions, approximately 5,400 NOAA employees – about 45 percent of the agency’s workforce – would be sent home.

Another Silver Spring-based agency, the Food and Drug Administration, will furlough about 8,000, or 45 percent, of its 14,779-person workforce. With those sorts of cuts, the agency says it “will be unable to support the majority of its food safety, nutrition, and cosmetics activities.”

Some of those halted activities include routine establishment inspections and monitoring U.S. imports.

The National Institutes of Health, based in Bethesda, will not be accepting new patients nor will it be taking on new clinical trials, extramural research grants or contracts. Without admitting new patients, NIH will be carrying on with roughly 90 percent of its normal patient load during the shutdown.

NIH will also be keeping employees who protect property related to ongoing medical experiments, maintenance of animals and protection of government-owned property.

According to its contingency plan, “For some of the on-going experiments, a break in the protocol would render the research property (both animate and inanimate) useless and require some of it to be destroyed. ”

In total, NIH will keep about 27 percent of its 18,646-person staff.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt will retain 104 of its 3,397 federal employees in the wake of a government shutdown, with only 60 of those employees full time. That will leave the center with a bare bones staff only three percent of its normal size. Goddard will also have 251 employees who are “on-call,” meaning they will only come to the center if there is an emergency.

A SMALL EFFECT ON THE BAY

Government funds also play a role protecting the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and with the EPA expected to lose 94 percent of its employees, according to its 2013 contingency plan, Chesapeake programs are expected to lose some of their workforce.

However, Margaret Enloe, a spokeswoman for the Chesapeake Bay Program, said that water monitoring and restoration programs should not be affected by the shutdown. She said most of the employees are funded by state programs or partnerships, so they will continue to work even if there is a shutdown.

But she added that those employees, many of whom work at the EPA-owned headquarters in Annapolis, will be seriously inconvenienced.

“There is a physical building that is managed by the EPA, and that building will be closed,” Enloe said. Because of that, Enloe said, most employees will not be able to work or meet in the building.

Employees will instead work from home, which Enloe said is frustrating but ultimately easy to deal with.

“I’ll give you one example,” Enloe said. “We have a giant conference room that we use for meetings, and if the government shuts down, we can’t use it. But then you go find another place or have a conference call.”

Capital News Service’s Joshua Axelrod contributed to this story.
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09-27-13