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Published: Wednesday, 10/2/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

U.S. GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

With lockout, locals can’t complain, get service or pay

BY NOLAN ROSENKRANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The Social Security office at Four SeaGate remained open, but a sign on the ground floor notifies visitors that the Internal Revenue Service is not — and would not be for the foreseeable future. The Social Security office at Four SeaGate remained open, but a sign on the ground floor notifies visitors that the Internal Revenue Service is not — and would not be for the foreseeable future.
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Even citizen complaints about the federal government shutdown Tuesday were shut down.

The Rev. Vince Ramos, pastor of Salem Lutheran Church, was in the lobby of 420 Madison Ave., hoping to speak to U.S. Sen. Rob Portman’s staff, admittedly with complaints about the dispute between Democratic and Republican lawmakers in Congress over the 2014 fiscal-year budget that led to the shutdown Monday.

Mr. Ramos, who said he was there to advocate for the poor, laid much of the blame on Republicans such as Mr. Portman, Ohio’s junior senator.

RELATED ARTICLE: U.S. lawmakers feeling heat from Americans angry about shutdown

But there would be no meeting. Staff members phoned down to building security and said they were directed by the senator’s Washington office not to meet, leaving Mr. Ramos; his wife, the Rev. Robin Ramos, and a handful of others in the lobby.

“There will be no meetings until the shutdown is resolved,” the security guard relayed.

The federal government shutdown hit the Toledo area just as it did everywhere else, proving mainly a nuisance in most cases.

Numerous government services stopped and offices were closed Tuesday as thousands of federal workers were idled. What happened was really a partial shutdown, creating an occasionally confusing array of closed, open, threatened, and unchanged government services.

Downtown’s Four SeaGate building provided a good example, with the Social Security office open, but a hastily composed sign taped to the building’s ground-level doors explaining that the Internal Revenue Service office would be shuttered until further notice.

Mail was still delivered, air-traffic control still worked, Social Security checks were still sent.

The Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge fell victim to the federal shutdown, as did other sites run by the Park Service or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. The Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge fell victim to the federal shutdown, as did other sites run by the Park Service or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.
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Web sites and social media accounts for national parks and many other agencies were shut down, with park pages eventually redirecting visitors to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Web site. The Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge was closed, and all public activities were canceled.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is aware that any lapse in appropriations imposes hardships on those we serve,” the agency said in a statement. “However, due to this lapse in appropriations, this facility is closed to the public and all public activities are canceled.”

Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial in Put-in-Bay, Ohio, also closed its doors.

Memorial Superintendent Blanca Alvarez-Stransky said the park closed at 8 a.m. Tuesday, though some staff remained into the afternoon to finish up paperwork. Once that was complete, the only employee left during the shutdown would be a single maintenance staff member who will intermittently check on the site, to ensure the property is safe and there is no vandalism.

There’s no real way to close off the grounds, Ms. Alvarez-Stransky said, but several signs were placed to advise visitors.

Maj. Gary Bentley, spokesman for the Air National Guard 180th Fighter Wing at Toledo Express Airport, said Monday 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.

A base employee said staff were sent text notifications instructing them to report to work Tuesday at their normal start time, 6:45 a.m., when they were then told they were furloughed and should go home.

This shutdown comes after many members of the 180th had already experienced furloughs this year because of sequestration. A base employee, who didn’t want to be identified, said his wife also works for the unit, and his family has already lost about $5,000 in pay this year from furloughs.

“This isn’t just a Washington, D.C., thing,” he said. “It’s right in our own backyard.”

And they aren’t alone. According to the Ohio Development Services Agency, about 2,500 federal employees in 2010 worked in Lucas, Wood, Fulton, and Ottawa counties. The number of people employed by the federal government likely has changed since then, and it’s unclear how many of those were furloughed Tuesday, but an extended shutdown could start to take a bite out of the Toledo metropolitan area’s economy if many of those workers stop getting paychecks.

In what they said was a show of solidarity with federal employees, representatives for U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) and U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) said neither will accept their federal salaries during a shutdown and would donate their pay to charity. Staff members for U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) said Tuesday afternoon they hadn’t discussed her pay, but noted she already refuses to take recent Congressional pay raises, and instead donates that money.

Staff members for Senator Portman did not respond to inquiries about the Ohio Republican’s pay.

A prolonged shutdown would likely cause more significant hardship. For instance, federal funding for public schools shouldn’t be impaired, a Toledo Public Schools spokesman said, but the fate of future grants and expected aid is unclear. Funding for aid programs, such as food stamps and school lunch programs, would eventually dry up.

And that’s what Mr. Ramos said he wanted to talk to Senator Portman about. Low-income families tend to take the brunt of cuts or delays to federal funds, he said. “The poor are always hit the hardest and first,” Mr. Ramos said.

He also noted Mr. Latta’s staff did meet with his group earlier Tuesday, and listened to their concerns.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.



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