Shutdown Hardly Felt Here

The federal government remains shut down, as Democrats and Republicans continue to disagree over a controversial budget proposal for improved border security. As both parties continue to deliberate, the shutdown has wrought havoc on a national level, with several major departments ceasing to function as millions of federal employees have been furloughed. The implications of the federal shutdown on a national level are pertinent, however, it appears to have had minimal effects on the East End of Long Island so far.

Federally funded and operated facilities appear to be functioning as normal through the shutdown. The Northport Veterans Medical Center has continued to run its normal hours, as the Department of Veteran Affairs secured its funding before the government shutdown. 

The National Wildlife Refuge System has released a notice stating, “where public access to refuge lands does not require the presence of a federal employee [. . .] activities on refuge lands will be allowed.” Residents and visitors can still enjoy the scenic coastal area. However, the National Wildlife Refuge System does emphasize “entry onto refuge system property during this period [. . .] is at the visitor’s sole risk.” 

For some, a far more imminent fear may have arisen surrounding the potential effects of the shutdown on Section 8 housing, which is a federally funded program. However, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has prepared for short-term shutdowns by creating a contingency plan that has allowed the department to calculate and pre-load funds onto its electronic system up until the end of February. While tech support for the electronic program is currently unavailable, there is nothing to suggest the pre-loaded funds will not arrive. Tom Ruhle, director of housing for the Town of East Hampton, used the words “unchartered water” when discussing the potential effects of a prolonged government shutdown. However, Mr. Ruhle suggested everything should continue to function as normal for now. 

In a letter last week, Mathew W. Sibley, rear admiral of the Coast Guard, wrote that “While all Coast Guard military members continue to report for duty in service of our country during this partial shutdown, they do so without pay until an appropriation is passed by Congress,” a situation that could have an impact on members of the Coast Guard stationed in Montauk, most specifically junior members, as many may be unable to cover their monthly financial obligations. There is also a Coast Guard station in Shinnecock. The Montauk station covers operations for Gardiner’s Bay, Napeague Bay, Block Island Sound, the South Shore of Long Island, and along coastal Connecticut. 

However, on Friday night, the official  blog for the Coast Guard work force published a post stating, “the administration, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Coast Guard have identified a way to pay our military workforce on December 31, 2018.” The one-time emergency paycheck means local guardsmen will not be affected in the short term by the government shutdown.