Tuesday, May 22 , 2018, 7:20 am | A Few Clouds 54º


Local News

Santa Barbara County Feeling Impact of Federal Government’s Partial Shutdown

As news spread that 800,000 federal workers would be immediately furloughed without pay by the federal government's partial shutdown, many workers in Santa Barbara County on Tuesday were waiting to see what happens on the federal level that could affect when they will be allowed to come back to work.

The shutdown occurred after a stalemate late Monday night in Congress between the Republican-lead House of Representatives and the Democratic-majority Senate.

Democrats in the Senate decried the spending plan put forward by House republicans, saying it undermined the Affordable Care Act.

The ACA health-care exchanges, systems in which uninsured people can sign up for insurance, opened up for pre-enrollment on Tuesday, with California's own exchange, Covered California, now in motion.

Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, said Tuesday that the shutdown doesn't have to happen, "and is only occurring because the Tea Party Republicans are holding the country hostage over their desire to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a law that is already improving health care for millions of Californians."

Capps said that, traditionally, a vote to keep the government open would be a simple, bipartisan action, and that many Republican members of Congress have stated their objections to link keeping the government open with delaying or de-funding the Affordable Care Act.

"Unfortunately, the House Republican leadership has chosen another path, wasting time on one rejected plan after another to repeal some or all of the Affordable Care Act," she said. "We should come together to keep the government open and get to work on reforming our broken immigration system, passing a Farm Bill and getting our economy fully in gear.”

Though the extent of the impacts in her district are still somewhat unknown, officials from Capps' office said a $300 million loss per day in economic output will result if operations are not resumed.

In the meantime, many Santa Barbara County residents are affected by the shutdown, with one of the largest being Vandenberg Air Force Base. Though firm numbers were still in flux, officials estimated 850 positions at the base could be affected by the shutdown.

Ron Cortopassi, 30th Space Wing executive director for the base, said Vandenberg has been planning for an orderly shutdown based on guidance received from the Office of Management and Budget and the Defense Department.

There are several organizations located on Vandenberg, but Cotropossi said he could only speak for the 30th Space Wing. However, he added that approximately 80 percent of appropriated fund civil service employees are furloughed now that the shutdown occurred.  

"By law, in the event of a lapse in appropriations, the Department of Defense can only conduct activities designed to protect safety of life and property and other essential military activities," Cortopassi said. "In the event of a lapse, all of our military personnel would be directed to continue in a normal-duty status, and DoD civilians who support non-excepted activities will be placed on emergency, no-notice, furloughs."

"The civilians that are non-excepted can only work for a maximum of four hours today, after that, they must go home and wait for further notice," 2nd Lt. Kaylee Ausbun said Tuesday.

Among the departments closed were the Airman & Family Readiness Center, Base Training, Civilian Personnel, Education Center, Housing Referral, Human Resources, Manpower, Library, HAWC services and all Catholic Mass and religious education.

Six hundred and sixty-three California National Guardsmen in Capps' 24th District will also be furloughed, officials from her office said, and the California National Guard soon will not have the people necessary to fully maintain and repair its aircraft, a concern with the area's fire season in full swing.

Because all national parks and monuments have shut down, Los Padres National Forest also announced Tuesday that it, too, would be closed.

"Due to the lapse in federal government funding, the U.S. Forest Service, as with other federal agencies, is closed with the exception of certain essential services," a statement on the Los Padres website stated. "However, we will attempt to make timely updates about public health and safety on these web pages as appropriate. We sincerely regret this inconvenience."

UC Santa Barbara spokesman George Foulsham said the university hadn't seen any real impact as of Tuesday, but the shutdown could affect federally funded research if it continues.

Air traffic controllers at Santa Barbara Airport were ordered to remain on the job, as were Transportation Security Administration agents working in security, though airport officials said TSA agents are working with delayed paychecks until the situation is resolved.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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