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image The government shutdown closed the doors of the Tooele office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Oct. 2.

December 31, 2013
Top Stories of 2013 – #7 Federal shutdown hits defense employees, local agencies hard

Tooele County’s largest employer with a monthly payroll of $8 million shutdown for 15 days in October.

Because Congress couldn’t agree on a resolution to fund the operations of the federal government, work at most federal agencies ground to a halt on Oct. 1.

While Congress acted to insure that active military personnel would receive their paychecks, the Department of Defense, which has 1,320 employees in Tooele County, expected that half of its civilian employees may be furloughed as long as the government was shutdown.

However, workers at Tooele Army Depot escaped the effects of the shutdown.

“We don’t expect that the shutdown will affect Tooele Army Depot,” said Kathy Anderson, TEAD public affairs officer. “We have a different funding stream that is not affected by the shutdown.”

But the situation at Dugway Proving Ground was drastically different. A total of 478 civilian Department of Defense Workers at DPG were furloughed on Oct. 1.

Deedee McCollin was among the furloughed workers at Dugway. Her husband, Kevin, continued to work, but without pay.

Deedee is a supply technician and her husband is the emergency medical services chief.

Deedee was furloughed while Kevin still worked—but Kevin didn’t get paid until an appropriations bill was passed by Congress and the shutdown was over. For the duration of the shutdown, the McCollins had no income.

“We have enough in savings to get us through one month,” Deedee had said. “If this lingers on for longer than that, we will be in trouble.”

The McCollins also had their income cut by 20 percent for six weeks this summer as a result of the federal budget sequestration.

“Most of my neighbors are in the same situation,” she said. “There aren’t a lot of people working out here.”

One week later most of Dugway was back to work.

As of Monday, Oct. 7, 427 furloughed workers returned to work and by Tuesday the remaining 51 civilian workers were back, according Paula Thomas, DPG public affairs officer.

The change in furlough orders was a result of the Pay Our Military Act, which was enacted by Congress hours before the federal government shutdown took effect.

The act appropriated pay for active military personnel and was interpreted by the Department of Justice as allowing the Department of Defense to recall most civilian employees to work.

Defense department employees weren’t the only people affected by the shutdown.

Also closed on Oct. 1 was the federal Women, Infant and Children program. It provides vouchers for nutritional food, counseling and screening services to low-income at risk mothers, expectant mothers, and children up to age five. It is administered by the Tooele County Health Department.

However, the state WIC program worked with the federal government to find enough money to keep the WIC program in Utah open until the end of October and the Tooele WIC office was reopened on Oct. 7.

The Bureau of Land Management also shut down, except for law enforcement and emergency response. The BLM notified the Tooele County Commission that Clover Springs and Simpson Springs campgrounds, along with the Knolls Recreation Area in the county, were closed.

The U.S. Forest Service also furloughed all employees and stopped all work except for fire suppression, emergency service, law enforcement, and protection of public property.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Stabilization and Conservation Service office in Tooele closed, too. The office administers the farm bill and provides technical assistance to improve range lands.

The shutdown also impacted Tooele County’s recovering real estate market.

The USDA stopped processing rural home loan applications and the Internal Revenue Service was not verifying tax returns, an important step in approving home loan applications, according to Chris Sloan, broker for Tooele Group 1 Real Estate.

In general, federal workers involved in programs related to health, safety and security continued to work during the shutdown. Some federal workers that have a funding stream not dependent on the lapsed Congressional funding bill also continued to work.

Some programs that continued to operate during the shutdown included food inspectors; NASA personnel that support astronauts on the Space Station; active military personnel; the U.S. Postal Service; air traffic controllers; prison guards and border patrol agents; and FBI agents and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Services closed by the shutdown included all national parks; the application process for small business loans; processing of new social security claims were delayed; the Bureau of Land Management stopped all activity except law enforcement and emergency response; and federal criminal prosecutions continued, but civil cases were curtailed.

The government shutdown was caused when Congress failed to approve a new continuing resolution by Oct. 1 that authorized the federal government to continue to spend money.

Continuing resolutions are used to allow the federal government to continue to spend money and operate despite the lack of an approved budget and regular appropriation bills.

Republicans in the House used the continuing resolution to cause a showdown over funding of the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, by tying delays in funding the ACA to the passage of a continuing resolution to fund the government.

Normal federal government operations resumed on Oct. 17 after House Republicans relented and passed a funding resolution that did not call for defunding of the ACA.

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