What does a federal shutdown mean for Alaska?

What does a federal shutdown mean for Alaska?
What does a federal shutdown mean for Alaska?
Alaska News

The U.S. and Alaska flags at the Begich Boggs Visitor Center at Portage, south of Anchorage. (Bob Hallinen / ADN archive)

The U.S. Senate failed to pass a short-term spending bill late Friday night, sending the federal government toward a shutdown at midnight.

While the full impacts to Alaska were still being considered by federal agencies on Friday, during the last shutdown in 2013, roughly 13,000 Alaskans were furloughed, the Anchorage Daily News reported at the time.

Both Alaska Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan voted in favor of the short-term spending bill Friday night.

[Government barrels toward shutdown as Senate vote falters]

Here's how some federal agencies in Alaska would be affected by a shutdown:

The Wasilla Post Office (Zaz Hollander / ADN archive)

U.S. Postal Service: Post offices in Alaska will remain open. No employees will be furloughed, wrote Dawn Peppinger, manager of marketing for USPS Alaska District.

Federal Aviation Administration: Airport operations will continue, wrote spokesperson Allen Kenitzer. A contingency plan for the U.S. Department of Transportation shows that about 17,800 FAA staff would be furloughed nationally.

Military bases: All active-duty service members will continue in "normal duty status," according to guidance from the Defense Department. However, military personnel won't be paid until the federal government has restored needed funding.

Civilians who work on military bases and are considered non-essential will be furloughed. Within the Alaskan Command headquarters on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, about 55 civilians will be told to stay home, said Capt. Bryant Davis, spokesman for Alaskan Command.

All told, about 3,000 civilians work on JBER, said spokesman Jerome Baysmore, but the base was still figuring out how many of those employees would not be reporting to work Monday.

"We won't know how deeply we're affected until Monday morning," Baysmore said.

Alaska National Guard: Active Guard Reserve members will continue to work. Some civilian and technician employees, whose work supports national security, protects life and property, will also continue working, wrote Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead.

Other civilian employees will be furloughed.

U.S. Coast Guard: The Coast Guard will continue law enforcement patrol, search and rescue, and other missions related to safety, security and environmental protection, said Lt. Bryan Dykens, spokesperson with the U.S. Coast Guard District 17 in Juneau. However, other services may be stopped or delayed, like vessel certification, or renewing seaman documentation, Dykens said.

Veterans Affairs: Employees with the Department of Veterans Affairs will continue working, wrote Peter Shelby, assistant secretary for human resources and administration at the VA.

"VA's mission to serve Veterans puts us in a unique position of having both multi-year appropriations and carryover funding. At this time, all employees will continue to report to work to serve our Veterans, unless notified by a supervisor," Shelby wrote in an email.

The agency has developed a contingency plan if multiyear appropriations and carryover funding lapse.

[Massive confusion spreads through federal bureaucracy ahead of shutdown deadline]

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services: The Medicare program will continue "largely without disruption," the U.S. Department of Health and Social Services' contingency plan says. For Medicaid, funding exists to last through the second quarter of 2018.

A pair of moose walks down the park road in Denali National Park and Preserve. (Bob Hallinen / ADN archive)

National parks: Alaska's national parks will "remain as accessible as possible while still following all applicable laws and procedures," wrote Jeremy K. Barnum, acting chief of public affairs for the National Park Service.

"For example, this means that roads that have already been open will remain open (think snow removal) and vault toilets (wilderness type restrooms) will remain open," Barnum wrote. "However services that require staffing and maintenance such as campgrounds and full service restrooms, will not be operating. The American public and especially our veterans who come to our nation's capital will find war memorials and open air parks open to the public."

The agency's contingency plan says that all activities will stop except those involving emergency responses, safety of human life and property protection. National and regional offices and support centers will be closed. Visitor services like trash collection and road maintenance will stop.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife: Alaska subsistence access and activities will be allowed to continue, according to the agency's contingency plan. Law enforcement, wildlife inspectors, conservation officers and fire management staff will continue to work.

Visitor centers and other buildings will be closed at national wildlife refuge areas, but the public will still have access to wildlife refuge land.

Alaska's hatcheries will have at least one person on site, with up to two people on call to protect the facility and maintain fish, the plan says.

Bureau of Land Management: "Essentially all activities of the BLM will be halted with the exception of law enforcement, emergency response functions, and those operations that pose a safety risk to life, property, or resources," the agency's contingency plan says.

A majority of employees nationwide will be furloughed, the plan says. BLM campgrounds and recreational sites will be closed, and signs will be posted notifying the public that BLM services won't be provided during the shutdown.

Bureau of Indian Affairs: About half the agency's employees nationally will be furloughed, according to the agency's contingency plan. Law enforcement, human services, wildlife fire management, irrigation and safety of dams will continue.

Indian Health Services: Clinical health care services will continue, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Social Services.

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (Joshua Roberts / Reuters file)

Environmental Protection Agency: Of the agency's 14,449 employees across the U.S., around 780 employees will continue working, considered necessary for the protection of life and property, according to the agency's contingency plan.

However, The Washington Post reported Friday that EPA "Administrator Scott Pruitt told his roughly 15,000 employees to report to work Monday as if nothing would change."

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: About half of NOAA's employees nationwide will be furloughed, the agency's contingency plan says.

Weather and climate forecasts, fisheries management and law enforcement activities will continue for NOAA and other agencies that fall under the Commerce Department, the plan says.

Justice Department: "Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the Criminal Division, as well as a limited support staff, will be excepted from a potential shutdown in order to fulfill our public safety responsibilities," wrote spokesperson Chloe Martin.

"Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the Civil Division and its support staff would typically be furloughed, except for required court appearances. The U.S. District Court is expected to remain open, and would continue operating as usual," Martin wrote.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection: Nearly 90 percent of all Department of Homeland Security personnel in the U.S. will continue to report to work, according to a DHS spokesperson. The agency did not respond directly to whether Alaska border stations into Canada or at the Port of Anchorage would remain open.

Alaska Volcano Observatory: About 10 people will be furloughed, said Jeff Freymueller, coordinating scientist with the observatory. State and university employees working for the observatory won't be affected, and some essential U.S. Geological Survey staff will remain on board.

However, next week was scheduled to be a big week for planning the next field season, Freymueller said.

A shutdown would stall those plans and put people in a "crisis" once they return to work, he said.

More information on how the shutdown affects federal agencies can be found in the contingency plans on the Office of Management and Budget's website.

Laurel Andrews

Laurel was born in Bethel and grew up in Fairbanks. She covers cannabis and general assignments. Reach her at [email protected] or 907-257-4382.

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