Shutdown continues; some local agencies affected

Alaska, News, Uncategorized

Originally published in the Peninsula Clarion

A partial government shutdown that could extend into next year has shuttered several federal operations on the peninsula, and left other government employees working without pay.

Federal Aviation Administration employees, which include air traffic controllers and technicians at the Kenai airport, are still performing essential duties, but without pay, Greg Martin, a spokesperson with the FAA, said.

Martin said FAA employees in Kenai, and around the nation, remain on the job to retain public safety.

“There’s no operational impact for Kenai because air traffic controllers and technicians remain on the job,” Martin said.

The shutdown started Saturday after President Donald Trump and lawmakers reached an impasse over the president’s demand for $5 billion to fund a border wall.

Funding lapsed for nine Cabinet-level departments and dozens of agencies, including the departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, Interior, Agriculture, State and Justice. Roughly 420,000 workers were deemed essential and are working unpaid, while an additional 380,000 have been furloughed.

Employees deemed essential or otherwise exempted from their respective agency furloughs can’t take any vacation or sick days.

Locally, a handful of federal entities will be closed and unavailable.

Activity on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge will be allowed to continue, but no visitor’s services will be available and the refuge warns that entrance into the refuge will be at the risk of the visitor.

Both Lake Clark National Park and Kenai Fjords National Park remain accessible to visitors, however, access may change without notice and current conditions will not be updated. Visitors should enter at their own risk.

The Kenai office for the United States Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is closed due to the partial government shutdown, according to their office voicemail.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office in Soldotna and the Women Infants and Children office in Kenai are both unaffected by the partial government shutdown.

The shutdown will likely extend into next week. The House and Senate gaveled in for a perfunctory session Thursday but quickly adjourned without action. No votes are expected until next week. Lawmakers are mostly away for the holidays and will be given 24-hour notice to return, with Republican senators saying they won’t vote until all parties, including Trump, agree to a deal.

Although furloughed federal workers have been given back pay in previous shutdowns, it’s not guaranteed. The Senate passed a bill last week to make sure workers will be paid. The House will probably follow suit.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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