Olympic National Park visitor Sandra Schmidt of Leipzig, Germany, right, looks over a map of the park with interpretive ranger Emily Ryan on Friday at the park’s visitor center in Port Angeles. (KEITH THORPE/PENINSULA DAILY NEWS)

Olympic National Park visitor Sandra Schmidt of Leipzig, Germany, right, looks over a map of the park with interpretive ranger Emily Ryan on Friday at the park’s visitor center in Port Angeles. (KEITH THORPE/PENINSULA DAILY NEWS)

Federal shutdown appears imminent

Coast Guard to work without pay during shutdown

PORT ANGELES — With the federal government seemingly headed for a shutdown as of midnight Saturday, questions remain about what the impacts to the North Olympic Peninsula may be.

While most government workers will be furloughed for the duration of the shutdown, many military and public security employees will continue to work — some of them without pay.

Most military members who continue to serve during a government shutdown will continue to receive their paychecks, but members of the U.S. Coast Guard and Customers and Border Patrol will have to continue working without pay for duration of the shutdown. They will be reimbursed later.

That’s because those agencies are part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), not the Department of Defense, which will remain funded. In the event of a shutdown, Coast Guard and Border Patrol employees will continue to work, but without pay.

According to the DHS website, 72 percent of the department’s workforce will be required to work without pay, including nearly 40,000 active-duty military personnel and 19,000 Border Patrol agents.

“CBP agents and officers working at over 300 ports of entry and protecting more than 6,000 miles of border under challenging circumstances would be required to continue performing their vital missions without pay,” DHS said.

“The dedicated men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard will only be compensated for their unpaid work if a specific appropriation is passed, unlike all other military service branches.”

There are bills in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to ensure pay for Coast Guard members but neither had been able to pass their respective bodies as of Friday.

U.S. Department of the Interior officials said Thursday that National Parks, Forests and other sites will close to the public furloughing thousands of National Park Service employees.

Olympic National Park announced that Hurricane Ridge would close Oct. 11 to allow for demolition of the old day lodge and preparations for winter visits, including the installation of winterized bathrooms and trailers for winter operations.

Speaking with Peninsula Daily News, ONP officials could not say whether that work — to be done by private contractors — will continue in the event of a shutdown. DOI’s contingency plan for a government shutdown states that a park superintendent can determine on a case-by-case basis whether a concessionaire, commercial use authorization holder or private partner can continue to operate in the event of a shutdown if they meet certain criteria.

“The concessionaire, CUA holder, or partner can operate during the lapse without requiring NPS resources in excess of those approved to support excepted activities or supported by (federal law) for critical visitor health, safety and protection services,” the plan says.

How many employees will continue working during the shutdown depends on available funding.

Should a government shutdown take place, NPS parks and sites will be fully closed as of Monday. Areas that are impossible or impractical to close to the public will remain accessible but with limited services. The public is discouraged from visiting NPS sites during a shutdown, DOI officials said.

Essential services such as fire fighting, law enforcement and public safety will continue.

DOI officials said parks may enter into non-reimbursable arrangements with state, local or tribal governments or other third parties for donations to fund the operation of an individual park site or of specified service.

Most federal support programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will continue to operate but staffing at those agencies will be significantly reduced. Payments from those agencies are separately funded and will continue during a shutdown, but new applications and customer service will be limited.

The Washington Department of Health said the state has several months’ worth of funds to support the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC program, without additional federal support.

As of July, the state’s WIC program had 130,443 recipients, including 28,323 women; 25,676 infants and 76,444 children ages 1–5.

Marc Abshire, executive director of the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce said he expected the impacts of a shutdown on the local economy to be minimal.

“Economically it’s not a huge impact unless it’s long-term,” Abshire said Thursday. “It has to be a pretty long period before we see major impacts on our local economy. The biggest impact is going to be in delays in processes that involve the federal government.”

Abshire said during past government shutdowns the chamber has organized events to help support active-duty service members and while no such events were currently planned, the chamber was ready to do so. Olympic National Park’s closure will impact tourism, Abshire said, but the Port Angeles Visitor Center is ready to help visitors find alternative activities.

A government shutdown is not guaranteed but widely anticipated. The Associated Press reported Friday that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s, R-Calif, last-ditch plan to keep the federal government temporarily open collapsed as a robust faction of hard-right holdouts rejected the package, making a shutdown almost certain.

“A clearly agitated McCarthy left the House chamber. ‘It’s not the end yet; I’ve got other ideas,’ McCarthy told reporters,” AP reported.

________

Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at peter.segall@peninsuladailynews.com.

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