News From Terre Haute, Indiana

October 2, 2013

Federal shutdown has impact in Wabash Valley

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Maj. Frank Howard showed up at his office at the 181st Intelligence Wing Indiana National Air Guard on Tuesday knowing his job would be different.

Instead of daily tasks, Howard and other Department of Defense employees, classified as non-essential, worked to make an orderly shutdown of their offices and sign paperwork to go on furlough beginning today.

Howard is among 117 technicians at the air guard base at Terre Haute International Airport-Hulman Field impacted from a government shutdown because of a budget impasse in Congress.

“We will not make updates to the web pages, will not be contacting the media; the community relations portion will shut down. Managing the commander’s staff will be minimal. In the big picture, we are going to only essential personnel to keep the bare minimums running while we wait for a budget,” Howard said.

However, the major added, “The 181st Intelligence Wing and Indiana Air National Guard will maintain the highest readiness alert possible with all the factors that are coming into play. We are making every effort to maintain as high a readiness to support the people of Indiana as is legally possible,” Howard said.

Statewide, about 1,000 DOD technicians who work for the Indiana National Guard are being furloughed, “which is about 50 percent of our full-time force,” said Lt. Col. Cathy Van Bree.

“This is much different from the previous furlough that was realized earlier this summer. That furlough was for 20 percent of their pay and 20 percent of their work hours, so they would receive 80 percent of their pay,” Van Bree said. “Now, it is 100 percent furlough, which means they will not get 100 percent of their paycheck at this point.”

The government shutdown has not hurt the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC. Sarah Renner, state director of WIC, in an email to groups such as the Western Indiana Community Action Agency, said that “despite a potential government shutdown, the Indiana WIC program will continue operations as usual.”

Carole Barr, executive director of the Western Indiana Community Action Agency, said none of its programs will be affected at the moment. “I don’t know how long that will last. Some of our programs are funded with old-year money, so it is not money from the new year,” Barr said.

The agency serves about 5,000 people with energy assistance programs, about 204 children in the Head Start program and about 3,000 people monthly in the WIC program.

Funding for Medicaid, highways and jobless benefits will also not be affected.

Chris Atkins, director of the Indiana Office of Management and Budget, said he expects the economic impact of the shutdown to be “small but manageable,” with state cash reserves keeping many programs going for up to a month before running short, the Associated Press reported.

On the federal level, the budget impasse continued Tuesday.

U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., in a statement, said, “Everyone knows Washington is broken, but too few people are talking about what that means for real people. The economy suffers, people looking for work suffer, and countless families, business owners, and farmers simply seeking responsible behavior from the people they elected suffer,” Donnelly said.

“This is unacceptable, and we must do better,” Donnelley said.

However, U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-Ind, said Tuesday the U.S. House was working on offering piecemeal amendments that would, if they became law, fund portions of the federal government.

Bucshon hopes the House would consider funding veterans affairs, national parks and allowing the city of Washington, D.C., to use its own revenue sources, such as parking meters, to raise money.

Washington, D.C., is essentially operated by Congress, Bucshon said.

Bucshon said those matters will likely pass the House and go before the Senate. Three other measures from the House, however, failed. One was to remove a medical device tax from the Affordable Care Act.

Bucshon said if the House and Senate can find common ground on removing that tax, “if we can do that, that would be a substantial change in the health care law that would benefit Indiana and that may very solve this impasse on the [budget] funding,” he said.

The Eighth District is impacted from that tax, Bucshon said, with Cook Medical and Boston Scientific in Spencer.

“People don’t want a government shutdown, but the majority of people in [the Eighth District] think that Obamacare either needs to be repealed or significantly changed because there are issues with it,” he said. “We are trying to fund the government, but also get some fundamental change in the health care law. …”

Bucshon said there are inconsistencies, such as delaying an employer mandate for insurance. “I feel like then they [White House] should delay the individual mandate. If businesses are going to get a break, then individuals also should,” he said.



Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.