Federal Furloughs Begin

10:48 AM, Oct 1, 2013   |    comments
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By Brian Tumulty

Gannett Washington Bureau

WASINGTON - A partial government shutdown caused by a congressional deadlock over a fiscal 2014 spending bill began this morning for 250 civilians at the Army's Fort Drum in New York's North Country, who were told they will be furloughed.

"Today marks the start of a new fiscal year, a new furlough and a new set of funding challenges, while the 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum continue to answer a call to duty that first came in 2001,'' Major Gen. Stephen Townsend, the base commander, said in an email to soldiers, civilians and families.

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point is furloughing 3,000 civilians. The 5,700 cadets, officers and enlisted personnel at West Point will be paid and classes will continue.

Furloughs are widespread among federal agencies, including the Housing and Urban Development Department, the Small Business Administration and the National Park Service.

New York's 22 national parks, which saw 12.6 million visitors last year, are closed. Also closed are the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Smithsonian Institution museums, including the two in Manhattan.

All told, about 40-50 percent of the 67,430 New Yorkers employed as civilians by the federal government are expected to receive furlough notices.

That doesn't include U.S. Postal Service employees or active-duty members of the military, all of whom will continue to be paid, according to the Office of Personnel Management. On Monday, President Barack Obama signed legislation guaranteeing continued pay to active-duty military personnel.

Social Security and Medicare recipients will continue to receive their monthly benefits, as will people receiving unemployment insurance or participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program formerly known as food stamps.

Federally funded school breakfast and lunch programs have received advance funding for October, and federal courts will remain open for at least 10 days.

But members of the New York congressional delegation are furloughing some of their staff.

Freshman Republican Rep. Chris Collins of the Buffalo area has furloughed 10 of his 14 congressional staffers, closed his satellite office in Geneseo and asked for his own pay to be withheld.

"Due to their constitutional responsibilities and a permanent appropriation for congressional pay, members of Congress are not subject to furlough,'' according to the Congressional Research Service.

Seven members of New York's congressional delegation are members of the bipartisan group No Label, which advocates "No budget, no pay'' for members of Congress.

Elsewhere, Republican Rep Richard Hanna of Oneida County is furloughing nine of his 15 congressional staffers and closing district offices in Binghamton and Utica. His Washington office will remain open.

Republican Rep. Chris Gibson of Kinderhook in the Hudson Valley is furloughing 10 staffers and closing district offices in Hyde Park, Cooperstown and Delhi. Three other offices will remain open.

Many federal operations are unaffected by the shutdown.

The Veterans Health Administration - which employs about 16,900 New Yorkers at V.A. hospitals, outpatient clinics and other facilities - received advance funding for fiscal 2014 and would not be affected.

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