September 1, 2014

Medina
Intermittent clouds
81°F

Ohio braces for government shutdown

Ohioans braced Monday for the potential consequences of a looming government shutdown, from individuals who live paycheck to paycheck to program directors worried about further impacts to already dwindled services for low-income families.

Unless feuding lawmakers in Washington at odds over President Barack Obama’s signature health care law make a deal on a spending bill, a government shutdown would begin at midnight Tuesday. That deal was unlikely at press time.

Like other states, a government shutdown in Ohio would lead to the closing of national parks, delays in government-backed mortgages and furloughs of civilian employees at military bases.

Other critical government services would remain intact, including mail delivery, Social Security and Medicare benefits, airport security screenings and air traffic control, and international border inspections.

About 20 employees at the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park would get furlough notices Tuesday morning in the event of a shutdown, said Dean Alexander, superintendent of the park, which sees about 60,000 visitors a year.

Park ranger Darquez Smith, a 23-year-old soon-to-be father in Xenia who’s paying his way through Central State University, said he’s living paycheck to paycheck and is worried about the potential shutdown.

“That would definitely be hard on me,” Smith said.

“I’ve got a lot on my plate right now — tuition, my daughter, bills. I’m just confused and waiting just like everyone else.”

Barbara Haxton, executive director of the Ohio Head Start Association, said the agency’s preschool learning programs in the state would be in jeopardy if a shutdown lasted more than two weeks.

The programs, which also provide health care, food and other social services to low-income children and their families, already have been hit hard by automatic budget cuts, with Haxton saying nearly 3,000 children have lost access to services and nearly 300 workers were laid off in the past six months.

Further impacts to those programs would have dire consequences, she said.

“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.”

About 8,700 civilian employees at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio’s largest military installation, have been notified that they will be put on unpaid leave if Congress doesn’t avoid the shutdown, said Col. Cassie Barlow, commander of the 88th Air Base Wing.

“It’s distressing, but we are having to plan for a potential emergency furlough,” Barlow said Friday.

Barlow said if the emergency furlough is necessary, workers considered essential to national security, public safety and military personnel will not be affected.

There are roughly 13,000 civilian employees on the base out of a total workforce of about 29,000.

Sarah Swan, a spokeswoman for the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson, said all but three security staff members of the museum’s 95 employees would be furloughed if there’s a shutdown.

The museum, which gets more than 1 million visitors annually, would be closed.