FBI agents and personnel appeared nonchalant about the partial government shutdown, showing up for work as usual today while knowing that their work will not result in a paycheck until the budget issue is resolved.
“This is not the kind of job that you can stay home and take off from,” said Frank Fisher, FBI media coordinator. No staff member locally was asked to stay home, he said.
Fisher said the government would likely pay retroactively once a budget was passed. But he said employees know retroactive pay is not a certainty. For now, however, staff remain optimistic and busy.
The FBI employs about 200 people in New Mexico at its headquarters in Albuquerque and its five satellite offices throughout New Mexico.
According to a map posted by The Washington Post, 5.6 percent of workers in the Albuquerque area rely on federal paychecks. The metropolitan area has the 17th-highest number of government and military workers as a percentage of total employment as of 2012. The map lists the total number of employees in the Albuquerque area as 379,00 and the total number of federal workers as 21,000.
See the map on The Washington Post site: Relying on a federal paycheck during the shutdown
Navajo Nation officials say the tribe’s parks aren’t affected by the federal government shutdown.
Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Department Manager Martin Begaye said Tuesday that “all Navajo Nation tribal parks are fully operating and open to the public.”
The Navajo tribal parks are open seven days a week, with the exception of Christmas, New Year’s and Thanksgiving.
The parks include Little Colorado River Navajo Tribal Park, Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Four Corners Monument, Bowl Canyon Recreation Area and Window Rock Navajo Tribal Park.
At the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians, a few white vehicles with U.S. government plates were parked outside in a nearly empty parking lot. Janel Manuelito, a private security guard, said that normally about 500 people work in the building that houses other government employees as well, but only about 30 “essential” workers were there Tuesday. “It’s really funny, it’s so quiet today,” she said. “All these buildings around here have government offices, but they’re all closed.”
A few blocks down the street, the U.S. Department of Agriculture building had signs posted advising visitors that the offices were closed and would reopen “once Congress restores funding.” A woman leaving the building with a small suitcase, said, angrily, “Oh, we’re furloughed alright.”
Outside the Social Security Administration on Cutler Avenue, a young man with an expired driver’s license from Illinois was trying to get a federal form printed with his Social Security number so he could get a New Mexico license. Chris Faison said he had lost his Social Security card and was at the office on Monday, but was only given one page of the two-page document he needs for the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division. “They dropped the ball,” he said. “I’m trying to do the right thing, so I can drive around legit. But they won’t even let me in the building.”
Though national forests are closed and their employees sent home due to the federal government shutdown, news outlets around the country have reported that people have still been able to access trails and parks — even if no one is working.
That also appears to be the case in Albuquerque.
“We don’t have to get a parking permit today, right?” said Richard Kessler as he got out of his truck Tuesday at the La Luz trailhead.
Eight cars were parked at the trailhead parking lot around 1:15 on Tuesday afternoon. None of the cars appeared to have the $3 parking permit on the dashboard.
Hikers continued going up the 7.5-mile base-to-peak trail. No sign was posted about the shutdown, even though patrols have ceased, as have other non-essential forest operations. That didn’t bother hiker Jorge Fonseca.
“As far as the patrols, no (I’m not worried),” Fonseca said. “As for the lunacy of the government, that’s another story.”
- The following article appeared on page A3 of the Albuquerque Journal on October 1, 2013.
State braces for shutdown
by Dan Boyd, Michael Coleman and John Fleck / Journal Staff Writers
New Mexico has been preparing for the federal government shutdown that could keep national parks closed indefinitely and lead to furloughs and pay freezes for federal employees in the state.
At Carlsbad Caverns National Park, one of the state’s 11 national parks or monuments, employees were planning to show up for work this morning – and then be sent home.
All roads to the iconic caverns in southeastern New Mexico, along with the park’s visitor center, would be closed to the public.
“When it is resolved, we would return to work the next day,” said Valerie Gohlke, a National Park Service public affairs officer at Carlsbad Caverns.
State budget officials in Santa Fe were hoping to minimize disruptions to state services.
Highway workers, Medicaid administrators and other state employees funded by federal dollars will stay on the job – with their pay uninterrupted – at least through Dec. 31, officials in Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration said Monday.
A total of 1,804 state government jobs are paid entirely with federal funds, and budget analysts were looking at ways to temporarily pay salaries for those positions.
Overall, they were confident that state agencies, “could carry forward by using appropriations that would get them through the end of the calendar year,” Finance and Administration Secretary Tom Clifford said.
In addition, Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith, a Deming Democrat, pointed out that lawmakers set aside $17 million in this year’s state budget to offset possible federal funding gaps.
The shutdown could also slow the federal judicial system in New Mexico, as civil lawsuits would be largely put on hold and court secretaries, receptionists and translators might be temporarily out of work.
However, criminal cases would still proceed, though possibly at a slower pace, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
New Mexico’s congressional delegation braced for the government shutdown in widely divergent ways. All members will remain on the job, but their staffs face different fates. Republican Rep. Steve Pearce plans to shut all of his offices and furlough all his staff during the shutdown while Democratic Rep. Ben Ray Luján plans to keep all staff working and all offices open.
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, is putting her staff on a rotating furlough schedule, with the number of people furloughed depending on the length of the shutdown. Lujan Grisham’s Albuquerque and Washington, D.C., offices will remain open to constituents.
Lujan Grisham also announced she will donate any pay she receives during the shutdown to a charity that helps military veterans avoid homelessness. Pearce said he would reimburse the federal Treasury for the amount of any pay he receives during the shutdown.
Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, both Democrats, are furloughing 32 and 31 employees, respectively, and closing all offices in the state and in D.C., but all meetings previously scheduled for their D.C. offices will happen as planned. Both senators are keeping a skeleton crew of staffers on duty during the shutdown.
Meanwhile, about 20,000 workers at Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories, the state’s two largest federally funded employers, have been instructed to report to work today.
Independent contractors run the labs for the government, and in both cases they have carry-over funding left from previous years’ budgets to keep working for at least a short period of time, management of both labs said last week in memos distributed to their staffs.
The shutdown could also affect paychecks for roughly 2,100 Pentagon-funded civilian employees at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque. Workers at White Sands Missile Range and Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo could feel a similar pinch.