Federal offices shut down

Congressional offices close, too
By Vicki Hyatt | Oct 02, 2013
Photo by: Vicki Hyatt Perry Wilkerson, a resource conservationist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, holds up a note to be posted on the National Resource Conservation office in Waynesville Tuesday.

As nonessential U.S. government employees prepared for a work furlough because of a stalemate in Congress that ran the clock out on federal funding, many could be found in their offices Tuesday morning preparing for the shutdown.

At the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resource and Conservation Office, resource conservationists Tim Garrett and Perry Wilkerson were in their offices Tuesday morning to shut down their computer systems, record a voice mail message and prepare to close for an indeterminate period.

Employees were notified Monday what to do in the event a federal funding measure wasn't passed.

"We are to finish up securing the office, shutting down the computer system and put a message on the phone," said Garrett.

The message is standard language notifying callers the office is closed due to a lapse in government funding.

"We're not supposed to answer emails, use the computers, cell phones or anything," said Wilkerson, in explaining that even if they wanted to keep appointments or take care of the pile of work on their desks, they couldn't.

There are nine federal employees working out of the Waynesville office, which covers a 30-county area helping landowners enact conservation measures such as animal waste handling systems or fencing livestock out of the creeks.

While the NRCS employees will be furloughed without pay, during the last closure, Congress reinstated the salary during the 25-day closure in 1995, Garrett said.

Having the offices closed will stall building and earth-moving projects that private contractors in the area handle, Garrett added.

Next door at the federal Farm Service Agency, where a sign was posted on the door about the closure, Martha Mills said employees weren't allowed to talk to anyone about what was going on.

Other federal programs with offices in the region that had messages notifying callers of the office closure included the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the offices for U.S. Congressional staff.

Those who want to let their representative know their concerns will hear this when they contact U.S. Rep. Mark Meadow's Haywood office: “Due to the current lapse in funding for certain federal government operation, the Haywood County office for Congressman Meadows will be closed until further notice.” The message refers callers to the Hendersonville office.

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan invites constituents to leave a message and promises her staff will get back to them and U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, the only Congressional representative to send out a news release on the shutdown, announced the closure of five offices within the state, including the one in Asheville.

"Unfortunately this means that my office will not be able to assist with situations involving Social Security benefits, Medicare and Medicaid, veterans’ benefits, immigration matters, passports, the Internal Revenue Service, securing military medals for veterans, or matters pertaining to any other federal government agency," the news release noted. Burr's Washington office remained open in a limited capacity.

All current enrollees in Social Security and Medicare should see no interruption in their benefits, Burr noted.



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