homeland security

Homeland Security workers in Anacortes are among numerous federal employees working without pay during the federal government shutdown that has continued nearly three weeks.

Many residents of Anacortes and South Fidalgo may not be feeling the direct effects of the federal government shutdown, now nearly three weeks long.

Mail is still being delivered. Retirees are still getting Social Security checks. People who depend on Medicare and Medicaid still have access to care. Federal law enforcement officers are still on the job.

But some local effects of the shutdown are becoming evident, and those impacts could grow over time.

Statewide, 867 federal workers in Washington had filed unemployment claims as of Monday with the state Employment Security Department, according to ESD regional labor economist Anneliese Vance-Sherman. Eight of those federal workers live in Skagit County, but the number of claims from Skagit could be higher.

“Not all federal jobs located in Washington state are reported to ESD, as there is also a federal Unemployment Insurance system,” Vance-Sherman wrote in an email to the Anacortes American. “… Many can’t actually file with us because they are covered under a different system.”

The Customs and Border Protection office near Cap Sante Marina is staffed this week. But agents are working without pay, designated as essential personnel who must report to work.

Ditto for the U.S. Coast Guard, which has a strong presence in this region. While the Coast Guard is defined in U.S. Code as a branch of the Armed Forces, it falls under the Department of Homeland Security, which is affected by the shutdown, unlike the Department of Defense.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency employees are also working without pay.

Restrooms are closed and trash collection has stopped at 17 U.S. national parks, reserves and sites in Washington, such as Ebey’s Landing in Coupeville.

Meanwhile, the Internal Revenue Service is essentially closed, so there’s no staff to help taxpayers understand tax law changes, and the later processing of tax returns could mean delays for any refunds, IRS officials have said.

Local tribal governments are also affected.

The Samish Nation has access to federal funds that have been appropriated through the end of September. But the U.S. Department of Interior is closed, so interaction with Interior will have to wait, Samish General Manager Leslie Eastwood said Monday.

That closure affects a review of the Swinomish Tribe’s appeal of the department’s decision to put some Samish land into trust, possibly delaying the Samish’s plans for the land.

 Living without pay

Washington state’s Employment Security Department is reaching out to workers whose income disappeared with the shutdown; those workers may be eligible for unemployment compensation.

And the Coast Guard’s 13th District, which includes Anacortes, is helping personnel prepare for life without income.

“Luckily, we all were able to get a paycheck on Dec. 31. But the next paycheck, on Jan. 15, may be delayed,” said Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Brickey, public affairs officer for the U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area.

The 13th District has 1,800 active-duty personnel, 200 reservists and 115 civilian employees, according to 13th District public affairs officer Lt. Russell Tippet.

Various commands have provided letters that personnel can give to creditors and are connecting personnel with Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, the branch’s official relief society.

Brickey said he, his wife and two young daughters have tightened their belts on spending.

“We are fortunate to have savings to draw upon if needed,” he said.

At this point, the partial shutdown is not distracting Coast Guard personnel from their work, Brickey said Monday. “They are still out there on patrol and conducting rescues. They are committed to the work they do everyday.”

Load comments