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Government shutdown bite worsens

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — There seems to be no end in sight to the partial U.S. government shutdown, which began Dec. 22 after President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats failed to come to an agreement concerning more than $5 billion in funding to build a wall on the Mexican border.

Many government employees are furloughed, while others are working without paychecks. Contractors who rely on government work are concerned about the future of their businesses.

Some of those federal employees got their say with Albuquerque’s media on Monday after an hourlong meeting with U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M.

Daniel Watson, representing the 250 members of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association in Albuquerque, said controllers continue to do their work despite not getting paychecks.

“As we push into this, controllers are now thinking about their mortgages, child care and bills they might not be able to pay instead of the airplanes that are going across their scopes,” Watson said. “Our ask is that the government open up immediately. There are a lot of new technologies coming in and new projects. A lot of training has stopped because of the shutdown.”

The shutdown is affecting an estimated 10,800 federal workers in New Mexico and an uncounted number of contractors, according to Udall.

Rob Wing, project manager with Santa Fe-based Sarcon Construction, said an $8.4 million hangar project at Santa Fe Airport is before FAA review. But that review is on hold during the shutdown, he said.

“We’re holding up about 24 or 25 subcontractors and our own staff,” Wing said. “A couple of them are furloughed. If this continues for several months, I myself will be furloughed. This is a big job for us.”

Family members affected by the shutdown also got their say. One of those was Rebecca Riely. She was speaking on behalf of her father, Charles Riely.

“I shouldn’t have to worry about my parents,” Riely said, holding back her emotions. “Their financial situation brings to light a much more serious impact on the families and children of this nation. It brings to light that our president and his administration are grossly neglecting the situation that our families are having to face. It’s not just about paying bills – it’s now at the point where we have to think about whether we pay for gas or pay for food. No family should have to think about that.”

And then there are schools and other institutions that rely on grants and other services.

“Our institution is being impacted through indirect services, such as grants ready to be executed for student health clinics, which can’t be because employees are on furlough status at the federal government levels,” said Gary Lujan, who was representing the Pueblo of Taos and the 700-student Santa Fe Indian School. “The emotional impact on our students – for those who have parents who are federal employees, it’s pretty hard on those students.”