Delays in federal benefits, job losses among effects locally

The Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in Oak Harbor, Ohio.
The Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in Oak Harbor, Ohio.

The F-16 fighter jets that do their training sorties each morning and afternoon at Toledo Express Airport will be quiet today now that a partial federal government shutdown is in effect, and people planning to apply for Social Security benefits will have to wait until the shutdown ends.

Those are among the effects locally, officials said. Long-term effects likely would be lost jobs, a hiccup in Ohio’s economic recovery, and bureaucratic roadblocks to people needing federal benefits, including veterans’ services.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers in Congress late Monday could not settle their dispute over the 2014 fiscal year budget.

A frustrated U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) said 52,000 Ohioans, many of them civilian employees of the Defense Department, will be furloughed if, as she sees it, Republicans continue to block passage of a government spending bill.

She blamed Republicans in the House and said she had called on Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich to convene a telephone conference call with Speaker of the House John Boehner (R., Ohio) and the other 11 Republican congressmen and urge them to “come to their senses.”

“I won’t vote for the GOP government shutdown. I am for keeping the government of the United States open and serving the American people,” Miss Kaptur said.

Miss Kaptur said Republicans are trying to pass a “Christmas-tree bill” laden with items that are unrelated to the mundane functions of running the government.

“They are the ones throwing the wrench in the gears because they are angry they didn’t get their way on the Affordable Care Act,” Miss Kaptur said.

U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) blasted President Obama, saying he’s willing to negotiate with the leaders of Russia and Iran, but not with the Republicans in Congress.

“The administration has already granted over 1,200 waivers [from Obamacare] to different companies. We’re saying that this thing is not ready for prime time,” Mr. Latta said.

To Miss Kaptur’s contention that defunding or delaying so-called Obamacare is extraneous to the appropriations process, Mr. Latta said, “I don’t think that something that is one-sixth of the American economy is extraneous, and that’s what Obamacare is.”

Pete Gerken, Lucas County commissioner, said a shutdown would begin to show up over time with impacts on the $120 million worth of food stamps, job training assistance, and homeland security funding that come through the county.

“There could be a slowdown in processing maybe of Medicare and Medicaid claims. Lucas County will be open but certainly there’s a cloud over the Lucas County budget and administration if it goes long-term,” Mr. Gerken said.

David Van Allen, regional spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service for Ohio, said the shutdown won’t affect mail delivery because the postal service is self-supporting.

“Normal operations, normal business hours will continue,” he said. The only exceptions would be post offices located inside federal buildings that are shut down.

Laura Strange, a spokesman for Mr. Latta, said agencies that protect national security and ensure human safety are considered essential and would be exempt from the shutdown.

This category includes military operations, border security, coastal protection, law enforcement, FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Secret Service, the U.S. Marshal Services, criminal investigations, counterterrorism efforts, and care of prisoners.

She said the Department of Veterans Affairs will continue operating all its medical facilities and clinics, and that services such as the veterans crisis line, insurance processing, home loan processing, readjustment counseling services, and military sexual trauma counseling will continue.

Discontinued services include hiring and recruiting job applicants, issuing decisions on claims appeals or motions, and processing Privacy Act requests, Ms. Strange said.

Citing a memo from the executive branch, she said the Transportation Security Administration will continue to staff airports, and air-traffic control systems are considered essential as well. Additionally, all Federal Highway Administration activities will continue.

Maj. Gary Bentley, spokesman for the 180th Fighter Wing at Toledo Express Airport, said about 250 full-time technicians would be sent home and about 150 active-duty Guard and Reserve members would be kept on to provide essential defense duties.

“The alert mission will still be here 24/‚Äč7 to staff the alert mission — pilots, jet engine mechanics, crew chiefs, anyone who is needed to fly and maintain the alert function,” Major Bentley said.

He said the training sorties that take off and land Monday through Friday would be grounded if the shutdown was ordered.

Jason Lewis, refuge manager at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge near Oak Harbor, said the gates to the park will be locked starting at noon today in the event of a shutdown.

He said it would interfere with the archery hunt for deer this week and next week, as well as a youth waterfowl hunt planned for the weekend. The only staff not furloughed would be law enforcement staff, he added.

The federal courthouse will remain unaffected, at least for 10 days, according to Judge Solomon Oliver, Jr., chief judge for the U.S. District Court northern district in Ohio. He said the court has fees and other independent sources to keep operating. After that, the court would continue to function, but possibly on a reduced basis.

Contact Tom Troy: or 419--724-6058 or an Twitter @TomFTroy.