Government shutdown avoided, for now

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom New Mexico

When Friday morning rolled around, Tannie Scheutte was preparing to check the pay stub online in advance of the April 15 payday for her Army husband, Clovis native Devin Scheutte.

Then, She started getting calls from friends at other bases. They told her base pay was cut off and only their basic allowance sustenance of around $500 got into their pay stub. Same call from her neighbor, and then she logged on to their myPay account.

“Sure enough, we’re only getting $500,” said Scheutte, whose family is stationed at Fort Huachuca in Cochise County, Ariz. “Normally, we’re just a little over $1,200.”

That nightmare won’t be coming true for the Scheuttes, and other military families across the nation, as Congress reached a deal Friday night on a stopgap measure to keep the government open through Thursday.

The myPay website Scheutte checked later removed pay stub information, and posted scenarios of when military members would be paid. Due to the continuing resolution, all military will get paid their full amounts on April 15.

A shutdown could still happen if the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Democratically-controlled Senate don’t reach a deal by Thursday, or if such a deal is vetoed by President Barack Obama.

Military members would have received back pay when a shutdown ended. Heather Sullivan, whose husband is a pilot at Cannon Air Force Base, was interviewed while Congress was still debating. She said the promise of back pay isn’t much relief.

“We are supporting nine people on my husband’s paycheck,” Sullivan said, “plus we have a 4 1/2-year-old who was diagnosed with cancer” with treatment upcoming.

Capt. Larry van der Oord of Cannon Air Force Base’s Public Affairs office said many details, including which employees are essential and non-essential, would be up in the air if a shutdown were to take place. Van der Oord also sent a release that said the base exchange store would remain open in the event of a shutdown.

Here are some organizations tied to eastern New Mexico, and what would happen in the event of a shutdown:

• City and county governments: Cities and counties have their own programs and revenue streams. But there are some programs aided by federal money.

Clovis City Manager Joe Thomas said the most noteworthy example would be a runway expansion at the Clovis Municipal Airport, largely funded by the Federal Aviation Administration.

“We’re not going to stop work on the projects,” Thomas said, “because the way the funding works is we do the work and ask for reimbursement after it’s completed.”

Thomas said it’s hard to say how many months a shutdown would have to go to have serious effects on the city’s operations.

Curry County Manager Lance Pyle said a similar scenario exists with a reimbursement request he put in Friday to the Office of Economic Adjustment for the Joint Land Use Study. Federal dollars also play a role in the county’s foster grandparent and retired senior volunteer programs, but state money is also a component.

“As of right now,” Pyle said, “it won’t impact the operations of the county.”

• Schools: Like the city and county governments, local schools would have to wait longer on reimbursement of federally-funded programs like work-study and grants.

Lisa Spencer of Clovis Community College said the school would be concerned if a shutdown went more than a few months, but would be fine in the short term.

“The college spends our own money first (for federal programs) and then we get reimbursed by the grant … on a monthly basis,” Spencer said.

Gary Mitchell, dean of Wayland Baptist University’s Clovis branch, said the branch is small and doesn’t use work-study programs or depend much on federal money. The school has a high military population from Cannon Air Force Base, but tuition for current classes has been received.

“A federal shutdown would not have an immediate impact on Eastern New Mexico University,” said Wendel Sloan, media relations director for the four-year college. “Once Eastern runs out of federal money to pay students on federal work-study or employees on federal-grant money, such as the TRiO programs, Eastern will pay their salaries out of university money, then be reimbursed when federal money resumes.”

• Mail: You’d still receive your bills, credit card offers and anything else you normally receive through the mail. And you can still go in and mail packages. The U.S. Post Office is funded through the sale of postage.

• Tax returns: The federal filing deadline is April 18, but a shutdown would delay processing from the Internal Revenue Service.

• Social Security: Payments would still be delivered, and benefit applications would still be processed. Attempts to contact the Clovis office Friday were unsuccessful.

• Medicare: Medical claims would still be paid, but health providers might see delays in payment if there is a months-long shutdown.

• Veterans Affairs hospitals: These would continue to run, as they were funded at the beginning of the year.

• Parks: All National Wildlife Refuges and National Fish Hatcheries will be closed to the public until further notice, and all scheduled activities would be canceled. This includes access to all lands, visitor centers, trails, and campsites where applicable. Individuals occupying campsites prior to the shutdown will have 48 hours to depart.

Oasis State Park would be unaffected by a shutdown, according to New Mexico State Parks Public Information Officer Marti Niman.