Shutdown leaves few ripples along the Cape Fear — so far – News – Wilmington Star News

A summary of local impacts of the federal government shutdown.

WILMINGTON — Much of the federal government has been shut down since Dec. 22. For many residents of Southeastern North Carolina, however, the effects are often hard to spot.

Moores Creek National Battlefield in Currie is shut down, and a voicemail recording says no calls will be returned until furloughed rangers are back on the job.

“Essential” federal personnel remain on the job, though.

The National Weather Service forecast office at the Wilmington International Airport is still posting updates and data and communicating on social media. Staffers have worked through shutdowns before.

“We are working, same as last year,” said Steve Pfaff, a warning coordinator with the Wilmington office.

Over at the airport terminal, blue-shirted officers with the Transportation Security Administration remain on the job, and flights are departing promptly, according to Deputy Director Gary Broughton.

CNN and other news organizations had reported that TSA workers, who are not being paid during the shutdown, have been calling in sick in large numbers. Broughton, however, said the number of TSA sick calls in Wilmington had actually dropped since the shutdown began, and no slowdowns have been detected.

Large “BUILDING CLOSED” signs are on the doors of the Alton Lennon Federal Building in downtown Wilmington, but that’s because of mold damage from Hurricane Florence, said Statt Moore, deputy U.S. clerk of court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. U.S. District Court sessions are still meeting in the New Hanover County Courthouse, while the federal clerk’s office has moved temporarily to 1717 Shipyard Blvd

Coast Guardsmen are still answering the phones at the Wrightsville Beach station.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua Canup, with the public affairs office of the Coast Guard’s 5th District, said all personnel are continuing to perform their duties and are responding to search and rescue calls, law enforcement and national security issues and environmental threats. Some non-essential Coast Guard duties, however, such as recreational boarding, safety checks and routine maintenance on aids to navigation, have been suspended until the shutdown is over.

A major concern, if the shutdown continues, is the status of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), popularly known as food stamps. which provides food assistance to millions of low-income families nationwide. SNAP is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is affected by the shutdown.

However, Michelle Winstead, director of New Hanover County Social Services, said the USDA had assured her that SNAP funds are assured through the month of February and plans are being made to assure funding for March. By then, everyone hopes the budget impasse can be resolved.

The shutdown will reach a critical point on Friday,  when both furloughed and “essential” federal workers will miss their first paycheck. Steve Pfaff of the weather service is convinced, though, that workers will be reimbursed once the shutdown concludes.

“It happened the last 12 times” the government shut down, Pfaff said, “so we hope it will be the same this time.”

Reporter Ben Steelman can  be reached at 910-616-1788 or Ben.Steelman@StarNewsOnline.com.

 

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