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   CHICAGO (AP) - Gov. Pat Quinn's budget office says most state workers whose salaries are paid by federal money are back on the job, but more layoffs could come if the federal shutdown continues.

   Roughly 100 workers were issued temporary layoffs last week, including employees with the Department of Military Affairs, the Illinois Department of Employment Security and Labor Department.

   Quinn's budget office says temporary layoffs for more than 70 employees expired Wednesday. The U.S. House has approved back pay for some workers.

   More than three dozen workers are still off the job, including Labor employees who conduct work site safety inspections. More state layoffs could be issued next week.

   Quinn has sent U.S. House Speaker John Boehner a letter, urging the shutdown's end and predicting hundreds more layoffs if the shutdown continues.

 

Published in Local News

   WASHINGTON (AP) - Because of the partial shutdown, government's work is piling up everywhere. It's not just paperwork.

   Litter lingers on sandbars along a stretch of the Missouri River in Nebraska because a volunteer clean-up was canceled when the government docked its boats. The Centers for Disease control has a backlog of food poisoning microbes that can't be checked because so many scientists are furloughed.

   And one woman is keeping a bald eagle in her freezer.  Wendi Pencille tends to injured birds in her upstate New York home. When a bald eagle dies, she sends the remains to a special eagle repository near Denver that ships feathers to Indian tribes for sacred ceremonies.

   But the federal bird shippers are furloughed while much of the government, like her fallen eagle, is on ice.

Published in National News

WASHINGTON (AP) — Taking out a mortgage. Getting married in a park. Going for a fall foliage drive. Cashing a check.

 

Who knew that so many random activities of daily life could be imperiled by a shutdown of the federal government?

 

Americans are finding that "the government" entails a lot more than the stereotype of faceless D.C. bureaucrats cranking out red tape.

 

And so it is that two dozen October weddings, including nine this week, are in jeopardy because they're scheduled for monument sites on the National Mall. Ditto for a New Jersey couple planning to marry at the Grand Canyon.

 

Mike Cassesso and MaiLien Le's permit to get married Saturday on the lawn near the Jefferson Memorial looks to be among the casualties, giving rise to a new Twitter hashtag for their #shutdownwedding. They're looking at alternate sites, including the restaurant booked for their reception.

 

Also canceled: a weekend Ku Klux Klan rally at Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

 

Want to take a drive along Virginia's popular Skyline Drive to take in the fall colors in Shenandoah National Park? Not till the government reopens.

 

It's not just romance, tourism and public events that are in jeopardy.

 

Consider the Wisconsin farmer who can't cash a check for a cow he sold.

 

Ben Brancel, the state's agriculture secretary, said that because the farmer has a loan from the Farm Service Agency, he can't cash the check without both his own signature and one from an FSA official, unavailable during the shutdown.

 

"Our advice to him was he was going to have to wait, that there wasn't anything he could do about it," Brancel said.

 

Ready to buy your first house?

 

Borrowers applying for a mortgage can expect delays, especially if the shutdown is prolonged. That's because many lenders need government confirmation of applicants' income tax returns and Social Security data. Mortgage industry officials say they expect bottlenecks on closing loans if the shutdown stretches on for more than a few days.

 

In addition, low- to moderate-income borrowers and first-time homebuyers seeking government-insured mortgages for single-family homes from the Federal Housing Administration can expect longer waits because of sharp reductions in FHA staffing.

 

Even workers who get their paychecks from a state government aren't safe from the ripple effects of a federal shutdown.

 

An assortment of state workers around the country are on furlough because the money for their jobs includes dollars from Washington. Among those are hundreds of workers at Arkansas' Military Department and one at the Crowley's Ridge Technical Institute, a vocational school in Forrest City, Ark.

 

In Illinois, the furloughs include 20 workers in the state Department of Employment Security and 53 in the Department of Military Affairs.

 

"These are the first, and there may be more," said Abdon Pallasch, the state's assistant budget director.

 

Want to escape the shutdown worries with a bike ride on the C&O Canal, a popular 184-mile trail and national park between Washington and Cumberland, Md.?

 

Closed. Those thinking of ignoring the closure notice and going anyway should consider this: Restrooms will be locked and handles removed from water pumps along the way.

 

One possible silver lining to shutdown annoyances writ small and large: The whole thing could serve as a teachable moment for all those people who tell pollsters that they want budget cuts — as long as they aren't directly affected.

 

"As time goes by, more and more people see these little things that they took for granted," said Ed Lorenzen, a policy adviser at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan group pushing for spending discipline.

 

He said the shutdown could serve as a reminder that "you're not going to be able to the balance the budget just by cutting spending in Washington that doesn't affect people."

 

___

 

Associated Press writer Andrew Miga contributed to this report.

Published in National News

NEW YORK (AP) — From New York's Liberty Island to Alaska's Denali National Park, the U.S. government closed its doors as a bitter budget fight idled hundreds of thousands of federal workers and halted all but the most critical government services for the first time in nearly two decades.

 

A midnight deadline to avert a shutdown passed amid Congressional bickering, casting in doubt Americans' ability to get government services ranging from federally-backed home loans to supplemental food assistance for children and pregnant women.

 

For many employees of the federal government, Tuesday's shutdown meant no more paychecks as they were forced onto unpaid furloughs. For those still working, it meant delays in getting paid.

 

Park Ranger and father-to-be Darquez Smith said he already lives paycheck-to-paycheck while putting himself through college.

 

"I've got a lot on my plate right now — tuition, my daughter, bills," said Smith, 23, a ranger at Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park in Ohio. "I'm just confused and waiting just like everyone else."

 

The impact of the shutdown was mixed — immediate and far-reaching for some, annoying but minimal for others.

 

In Colorado, where flooding killed eight people earlier this month, emergency funds to help rebuild homes and businesses continued to flow — but federal worker furloughs were expected to slow it down.

 

National Guard soldiers rebuilding washed-out roads would apparently be paid on time — along with the rest of the country's active-duty personnel — under a bill passed hours before the shutdown. Existing Social Security and Medicare benefits, veterans' services and mail delivery were also unaffected.

 

Other agencies were harder hit — nearly 3,000 Federal Aviation Administration safety inspectors were furloughed along with most of the National Transportation Safety Board's employees, including accident investigators who respond to air crashes, train collisions, pipeline explosions and other accidents.

 

Almost all of NASA shut down, except for Mission Control in Houston, and national parks closed along with the Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo. Even the zoo's popular panda cam went dark, shut off for the first time since a cub was born there Aug. 23.

 

As the shutdown loomed Monday, visitors to popular parks made their frustration with elected officials clear.

 

"There is no good thing going to come out of it," said Chris Fahl, a tourist from Roanoke, Ind., visiting the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park in Hodgenville, Ky. "Taxpayers are just going to be more overburdened."

 

Emily Enfinger, visiting the Statue of Liberty, said politicians need to find a way to work together.

 

"They should be willing to compromise, both sides, and it discourages me that they don't seem to be able to do that," she said. "They're not doing their job as far as I'm concerned."

 

Joe Wentz, a retired federal employee from Lebanon, Va., visiting San Francisco with his wife, bought tickets to visit Alcatraz on Thursday — if it's open.

 

Wentz said he's frustrated that some politicians are using the budget to push changes in the Affordable Care Act.

 

"We've been disgusted a long time that they're not working together," he said.

 

The shutdown was strangely captivating to Marlena Knight, an Australian native visiting Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia. She was confounded that the impasse focused on the nation's health care system — an indispensable service in her home country.

 

"We can't imagine not having a national health system," she said. "I just can't believe that this country can shut down over something like a national health system. Totally bizarre, as an Australian, but fascinating."

 

It turns out an institution as massive as the federal government takes some time to grind to a total halt: Many federal workers were being permitted to come in Tuesday to change voicemail messages or fill out time cards. But after that, they were under strict orders to do no work, even check their email.

 

With no telling how long the budget standoff will last, even programs not immediately affected could run out of cash.

 

Barbara Haxton, executive director of the Ohio Head Start Association, said its preschool learning programs would be in jeopardy if a shutdown lasted more than two weeks. March's automatic budget cuts meant nearly 3,000 children lost access to services and there could be dire consequences if the budget standoff drags on.

 

"It's not as though this is a throwaway service. These are the poorest of the poor children," Haxton said. "And our Congressman still gets his paycheck. His pay doesn't stop and his health insurance doesn't stop."

 

___

 

Associated Press reporters Kathy Matheson in Philadelphia, Joan Lowy in Washington, D.C., Dylan Lovan in Louisville, Ky., Terence Chea in San Francisco and Amanda Lee Myers in Cincinnati contributed to this report.

Published in National News

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Social Security Administration says one of its fraud investigators received a readable list of Missourians who have concealed-weapons permits but that the list was later destroyed.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Friday that the agent received the list in a readable format from the Missouri State Highway Patrol in January.

Patrol officials told a Missouri Senate committee Thursday the data were never accessed at the federal level because of a technical glitch. But the Social Security Administration's Office of Inspector General told The Post-Dispatch the unreadable version was sent to the agent in 2011.

The investigator was planning to check if anyone who met Missouri's mental health qualifications for a weapons permit had also sought benefits for a mental disability. But the project was dropped.

Published in Local News
WASHINGTON (AP) — In spite of budget wrangling and finger-pointing by U.S. policymakers, the government's short-term fiscal picture isn't all that bad. It's actually getting better — at least for now.

Washington is borrowing about 25 cents for every dollar it spends, down from over 40 cents just a few years ago.

And the budget deficit is dropping to $845 billion after topping $1 trillion for four straight years. The Congressional Budget Office says the deficit will keep shrinking — to $430 billion by 2015.

That's the good news.

But without a fix, the government's finances will start to worsen again as the three major "entitlement" programs — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — become more and more expensive and unmanageable under the increasing weight of retiring baby boomers.
Published in National News

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