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The federal government shutdown has reduced the civilian staff at local military installations by about 50, but its overall impact on local schools, the health department and Head Start so far has been small.
About half of the 2,000 full-time employees of the Indiana National Guard have been furloughed, including 50 at Camp Atterbury and Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, said Lt. Col. Cathy Van Bree, director of public affairs.
“That’s a significant degradation of our force,” Van Bree said, although she emphasized that safety and security have not been compromised.
The roughly 1,000 active duty employees are not affected by the shutdown, Van Bree said, but the other 1,000 are federal technicians or full-time employees paid by the federal government.
The furloughed employees work in a wide variety of departments, including personnel, logistics and maintenance, said Van Bree, who herself was doing more work than usual because four members of her staff of 10 had been furloughed.
Departments are responding by identifying the most critical duties, she said, but the longer the shutdown continues, the more significant the impact will become.
Deferred maintenance on vehicles and aircraft may result in some of those being out of commission for a while, Van Bree said.
“That is one significant impact,” she said.
Van Bree added that the furloughs have a significant effect on the employees and their families.
An additional 12,000 Guard members who are not on active duty usually work one weekend per month, but Van Bree said that those weekends are being delayed until the shutdown has been resolved.
“We do look forward to a quick resolution,” she said.
Some homebuyers in search of government-backed mortgages could face delays during the shutdown.
Anne M. Hittler, vice president of mortgage lending with MainSource Bank, said there could be a slight impact for Columbus-area borrowers, especially those in rural parts of Bartholomew County seeking home financing through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“It would be for residential home loan financing, but in a rural location,” she said. “If the loan wasn’t approved by the USDA by 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, you are totally in wait mode.”
The loans are relatively common in Bartholomew County, and they can provide 100 percent financing on rural home purchases.
“I had one approved last week,” Hittler said.
IRS office closed
The Internal Revenue Service office in the 2400 block of NorthPark Drive was closed due to the impasse in Congress.
A look through glass sliding doors revealed a darkened hallway and no employees on duty shortly after 12:30 p.m. Tuesday.
A sign on the door read: “In the event of a government shutdown, this office will be closed. We apologize for any inconvenience.”
Health Department officials said that, at least in the short term, the impact on local operations would be minimal, although some of the impact was unclear.
The government shutdown is affecting federal agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.
Bartholomew County Health Department Director Collis Mayfield said if the shutdown continues for several weeks, the department may not get notifications about disease outbreaks and food recalls.
“That’s the type of thing we’re going to start missing,” he said.
Mayfield also said that the local department usually gets reimbursed for some expenditures related to disaster preparedness, but those reimbursements might be delayed by the shutdown.
“That could be a problem in the long run,” Mayfield said.
Assistant Director Carla Wolff said that the shutdown eventually may lead to a slowdown in federally supplied vaccines; although she said that even if that happened, local consumers would not be affected. Wolff said that if the local office ran out of some of those vaccines, it would simply order them from the manufacturer.
She also said that so far, the Women, Infant and Children office, which supplies healthy foods and nutrition education to mothers and children to age 5, remains open. WIC is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Right now there’s no impact on us,” Wolff said.
The impact on local schools also will be minimal, said John Quick, superintendent of Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.
Quick said the corporation receives about $5 million annually in federal funds, including some for low-income earners and children with special needs, but BCSC can tighten its belt a little without having to reduce staff or services.
And not all federal funds have been cut. If the shutdown lasted about a year, Quick said, BCSC might lose about $435,000 of its federal money. The schools’ entire annual budget is $105 million.
“It’s an inconvenience … but it’s not a catastrophic deal,” Quick said.
Human Service Inc.’s Head Start and Early Head Start programs also are not affected, said Jill Hammer, executive director of HSI.
The programs, which provide education to about 400 children in Bartholomew, Brown, Decatur, Jackson, Johnson and Shelby counties, will continue, Hammer said, because the agency already has received its federal funds for the entire calendar year.
U.S. Rep. Luke Messer, R-Ind., the congressman who serves in Indiana’s 6th Congressional District, which includes Bartholomew County, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Republic reporter Randy McClain contributed to this report.
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