Government closing sends many Capital Region workers home

Gridlock in Washington will mean scores of furloughed workers in the Capital Region, including rough

Categories: News, Schenectady County

Gridlock in Washington will mean scores of furloughed workers in the Capital Region, including roughly 190 technicians working with the National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing in Glenville.

With Tuesday marking the first shutdown of the federal government in 17 years, hundreds of area workers were told to stay home until further notice. Among them were around 400 workers employed by the New York National Guard, a sizeable percentage of whom work at the Stratton Air National Guard base.

Guard spokesman Eric Durr said the federal government shutdown also sent home about half of the workers from his office. And until something changes on Capitol Hill, that’s where they’ll stay.

About 1,700 people — about a third of the full-time employees of the New York National Guard — are affected across the state. Among others, these workers include technicians and a broad range of civilian employees.

That means no one turning wrenches on the Guard’s Humvees and aircraft or processing the paperwork generated by a massive operation like the military. Part-time guardsmen who were scheduled to drill on weekends are also among those being furloughed.

“There will be units who will not drill this weekend and for however long it takes,” Durr said.

The shutdown also forced federal parks to close throughout the area. At the Saratoga National Historical Park in Stillwater, barricades were erected near the visitor parking area indicating that the facility will remain closed because of the shutdown.

Gina Johnson, the chief of interpretation at the park, said workers were allowed to come in for about four hours to finalize furlough letters and payroll through Monday. They were also kept on hand to post notifications of the closures.

“Last week, we notified all school and public tour groups with plans to visit through mid-October that if the [government] is shut they will not be able to tour or enter the park,” she wrote in an email.

The shutdown could also delay financial support for New York small businesses. With the U.S. Small Business Administration grinding to a halt, so will the approval process for thousands of applications for credit.

Furloughs will also leave applicants for Social Security benefits waiting. Those getting checks will continue, but any new claims for Social Security or disability benefits will be delayed.

Head Start centers around the country could also start to close. Last year, 51,696 children in New York were served by Head Start agencies, according to federal records.

Across the state, the shutdown leaves about 72,000 federal employees out of work. U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, said the impact on the state and Capital Region will be pronounced unless a simple budget extension is approved by the Republican majority that controls the U.S. House of Representatives.

“This isn’t just about panda cams and shuttered national parks,” he said. “The government shutdown is costing our economy $300 million per day during a time our fragile economic recovery can ill afford it. New Yorkers have worked too hard for too long to rebound from the recession; they shouldn’t have to face a self-imposed crisis by Congress.”

Some non-essential services at the Stratton Veterans Administration Medical Center will be halted during the shutdown, including decisions on claims appeals, the processing of Freedom of Information Act inquiries and Privacy Act requests. But the medical center and 12 community-based outpatient clinics have advance appropriations for the coming months, meaning their health services will remain operational.

“In the event of a prolonged shutdown, [the VA] will continue to review and update its plan in conjunction with the applicable legal requirements and circumstances,” spokesman Peter Potter said in a statement.

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