Hundreds of local federal government workers are bracing for the long haul as they go without a paycheck for a second time during the partial shutdown that has lasted more than a month.
“Obviously I hope moving forward they get this straightened out,” said James Harris, currently working without pay to maintain air traffic control equipment at the Dayton International Airport. “I don’t know how far that would go in private industry. But we’re all professionals, so we all care about safety … But asking anyone to work without a paycheck should be a pretty tough pill for anyone to swallow.”
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The U.S. Senate is set to vote on two competing proposals Thursday and it is not likely either will get the 60 needed votes to advance.
The shutdown — started in a faceoff over a request for border wall funding by President Donald Trump — has stalled many operations at nine federal departments, including the Treasury where Americans will soon be mailing their tax returns expecting refunds, the Department of Agriculture that provides food assistance to needy households and Homeland Security, whose Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents screen airplane passengers.
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Impact at Dayton Airport
The national rate of TSA screeners missing work hit 10 percent on Sunday — up from 3.1 percent on the comparable Sunday a year ago — the Associated Press reported. But a noticeable jump in absences has not been seen at Dayton International Airport, or any disruptions in air traffic control operations due to the shutdown, said Terry Slaybaugh, the city’s director of aviation.
“They are not seeing any absences beyond what would be normal this time of year, so to date we haven’t had any impact,” Slaybaugh said. “Of course that could change as the shutdown continues.”
About 800,000 federal workers are affected, 420,000 working without pay while the remainder have been told not to come to work nor collect a paycheck.
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Food assistance impact
Because of the shutdown, about 1.4 million Ohioans who receive food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are having benefit cards loaded for February funds. The cards should be loaded by Jan. 31, according to the county, but the roughly 70,000 Montgomery County residents who receive food assistance should expect no additional benefits in February, said Michelle Niedermier, director of Montgomery County Department of Job and Family Services.
June data show there were 123,654 SNAP recipients in Butler, Champaign, Greene, Miami and Montgomery counties receiving a total of $15.1 million in benefits.
State bracing for impact
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has instructed his new cabinet directors to report back to him by Friday on how the partial government shutdown is impacting state agencies and programs, his press secretary Dan Tierney said Wednesday.
Though little impact has been felt at region’s largest employer, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the shutdown has impacted hundreds of other jobs in the area. Approximately 400 civilian employees in the area work for the unfunded agencies, according to the June 2018 data from the Office of Personnel Management.
Harris of Wilmington said he and his wife have had to tighten their belts but the 52-year-old considers himself luckier than some because his wife has a good job.
“But the longer it goes, the greater the stress and the more cutbacks that are necessary,” he said.
Federal government workers “are being held hostage” but Harris said he would continue to clock-in during the shutdown and make sure flights go off without a hitch.
“We’ll continue doing our jobs and keep the airways safe,” he said. “But we sure would like it to come to an end.”
Staff Writer Laura Bischoff and The Associated Press contributed to this report.