Government shutdown: What's closed around SLO County

kleslie@thetribunenews.com, ktanner@thetribunenews.comOctober 1, 2013 

Jennifer Anderson had a hectic morning Tuesday: Between news of the government shutdown and attempting to wrap up all loose ends at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Templeton office before furloughs began at noon, she was working down to the wire.

“We didn’t know about this until this morning for sure,” Anderson told The Tribune at 11:50 a.m. Tuesday — 10 minutes before she was required to be out the door. “We’re not supposed to be in the office very soon (at noon).”

Anderson, San Luis Obispo County's executive director for the USDA, is one of 20 “non-exempt” or “nonessential” employees in her office who have been placed on furlough indefinitely, following Congress’ inability to approve a budget before its Oct. 1 deadline, which prompted a nationwide government shutdown.

In San Luis Obispo and the surrounding counties, local offices of federal agencies, as well as national monuments and parks, will be closed until an agreement can be reached.

The federal agencies include the Internal Revenue Service office in Santa Maria, Anderson’s office in Templeton (which also houses the local Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Farm Service Agency offices), a Natural Resources Conservation Service office in Morro Bay and the Department of Commerce office in Monterey.

In the San Simeon area, the Coastal Discovery Center at San Simeon Bay is closed, and public tours of the Piedras Blancas Light Station have been canceled.

Likewise, the offices of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Bureau of Land Management, which manage the center and lighthouse respectively, also are closed and their employees are on furlough.

As a voicemail message at the center said Tuesday, "We will not be able to access email or respond to voicemail after noon today until a fiscal year 2014 spending bill is passed and government offices resume operations.”

Also, the October meeting of the Sanctuary Advisory Council is to be canceled unless the furlough is lifted by Friday. While the council’s October meetings often have been held in Cambria in the past, that plan had been changed due to low funding levels, sanctuary Superintendent Paul Michel said during a midsummer visit to the center.

Other meetings that may be canceled include a Nuclear Regulatory Committee Waste Confidence hearing scheduled for Monday in San Luis Obispo. The meeting was scheduled to discuss the environmental impacts of Diablo Canyon’s nuclear waste storage.

The Carrizo Plain National Monument and Goodwin Education Center are also closed.

The shutdown isn’t only affecting meetings and offices — employees at Camp San Luis Obispo and Camp Roberts have been placed on furloughs as well.

At Camp Roberts, the furloughs have hit the Military Technician Force, which is comprised of mostly maintenance personnel, said Master Sgt. Paul Wade, senior enlisted adviser for National Guard public affairs. Several civilian administrative personnel have also been furloughed, Wade said, though he did not have an exact number.

Wade said most operations will continue as normal, with a few exceptions.

About 10 federal technicians at Camp San Luis Obispo have been “released until this impasse has been resolved,” said Maj. Mark Johnson, director of personnel and community activities.

No other personnel have been put on furlough, Johnson said.

“That constitutes a small fraction of our workforce,” Johnson said. “They’ve been told to listen to the news, pick up the paper, and wait until this is resolved — as we hope it will be.”

Waiting is just what Anderson is planning on doing as well.

“I’ll be waiting for them to call us back to work,” Anderson said of her plans while on furlough. “We’re basically in limbo until they call us back.”

Furloughs aren’t the only impact the government shutdown will have on federal workers, though.

Workers whose jobs have been deemed “exempted” — also known as “essential” — will continue to work, though their paychecks will be held until Congress approves a budget.

The Social Security Administration is one such organization.

Because the Social Security office located on Higuera Street in San Luis Obispo is a field office, it will remain open during the shutdown, but working employees will not be paid until a budget has been passed.

Jane, who declined to share her last name because of agency policy, said the office will offer a trimmed-down range of services to residents, including those necessary for benefits or handling money.

She also said that it was mandatory for everyone in the office to attend work Tuesday.

“Let’s just say, nobody was missing,” she said.

The Social Security regional public affairs office could not respond to comment because of furloughs.

Some informational websites also are unavailable.

For instance, anyone going to the Discovery Center’s site is redirected to http://governmentshutdown.noaa.gov, and the announcement that “Due to the Federal government shutdown, NOAA.gov and most associated web sites are unavailable. Only websites necessary to protect lives and property will be maintained.”

The Library of Congress website, one of the largest research and database websites in the country, is also displaying a shutdown notice. Also shut down is Business.USA.gov/healthcare, a “one-stop-shop” site designed to provide employers with educational materials on how the Affordable Care Act may affect their companies.

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