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Federal Government, Maryland’s Largest Employer, Holds Workers, Residents in Limbo

Federal employees, many of whom live in Maryland, could be placed on furlough if there is a federal government shutdown.

Thousands of Marylanders, from civil servants to pro football players, were worried Thursday about a possible government shutdown.

Joe Flacco, the Baltimore Ravens quarterback, told Patch reporters “it’s going to be crazy” if a shutdown occurs.

“Hopefully I won’t be too affected if it does happen,” he said. “But we’ll see. Something’s got to be done.”

A shuttered federal government would hit Maryland particularly hard because it is home to more than 130,000 non-military federal employees—the largest contingent of workers in the state.

Nationally, the shutdown, which could occur Saturday if no agreement between U.S. lawmakers is made on the 2011 budget, could mean furloughs for about 800,000 federal employees.

“I’m nervous about it,” said Kate Yemelyanov, a Columbia resident with three children who works for the U.S. State Department.

“We don’t have a lot of savings and resources set aside for a rainy day,” said Yemelyanov, whose husband also works for the federal government. “There will be a lot of bills that won’t get paid in the short term if we don’t get paid--and we’re both federal employees.”

Brenton MacAloney, an Elkridge resident and meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said officials at his office this week asked employees to submit their timesheets and get them certified in advance of the possible shutdown.

Then he made plans about what to do with his free time.

“I’m probably going to brew some beer,” he said.

According to the Washington Post, congressional leaders and President Obama were unable to reach a deal Thursday afternoon that would have averted the shutdown.

But leaders said they would keep working.

Maryland has a concentration of federal agencies, ranging from the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg to the Camp David presidential retreat in Thurmont to the Social Security Administration in suburban Baltimore.

The 13,000 employees of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda face an uncertain future, as do the 10,000 Social Security Administration employees in Woodlawn.

Maryland is also home to the National Security Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, and the U.S. Naval Academy.

The ripple effect of a shutdown will be felt widely as contractors, vendors and others who do business with the federal government are put on hold. Local businesses will suffer as workers cut back on spending and routine activities of government come to a standstill.

"I represent the great Port of Baltimore," Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-MD, said on the Senate floor Wednesday. "Ships are going to come into the port. Who’s going to inspect their cargo? Traffic coming in to airports; who's going to inspect their cargo?"

Stacey Carroll of Taylorsville worries about lack of access to D.C. amenities as a result of the possible shutdown.

“I’m sure between the IRS being shut down and some national parks and museums and things it could definitely [affect me],” she said.

Maryland labor department officials, who administer the Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees program, are also getting ready for increased duties if the shutdown occurs.

According to the Associated Press, the Maryland program provides benefits for unemployed former civilian federal employees.

City and county officials that receive federal funding for a variety of federal projects, including for highway, water and sewer projects in their communities, said the impact would be relatively small on their operations.

“The [grant money from the federal government] would be on hand already, so I’m thinking the impact might not be seen,” said Jim Peck, director of research for the Maryland Municipal League.

In Howard County, spokesman Kevin Enright said if the shutdown were to go on for a long period of time, grant payments could be delayed.

Elizabeth Silber, from Pikesville, predicts the federal government “will absolutely shut down.”

“There comes a time when people just get in a situation they can’t get out of and right now that’s really where they are,” said Silber, also a spokeswoman with the Baltimore Humane Society. “I hope that the political stuff will be put aside and they can realize that what’s really important is this nation and it needs to continue running and can’t just sort of stop.”

In Carroll County, Damian Halstad, president of the Westminster Common Council, said the threatened shutdown is indicative of Washington politics.

"The government shutdown exemplifies what's wrong with the country today,” he said. “There is no sense of common purpose, goodwill or compromise, which itself is largely due to the government's ineptitude. Fortunately, Americans have an instinct toward fairness and democratic principles that hopefully will prevail."

Reporting done by Marc Shapiro, Diana Soliwon, Elizabeth Janney, Bruce Goldfarb, Brandie Jefferson and Kym Byrnes. 

David J Iacono April 08, 2011 at 02:33 PM
It's likely the federal government will shut down because the Tea Party is holding the budget process hostage to their social agenda. Riders such as defunding Planned Parenthood, NPR and the EPA are an example of the extremism found in this group of right-wing zeolots.
david April 08, 2011 at 05:48 PM
The Dems had a chance to pass whatever budget they wanted when in control and did nothing. They left it to the responsible part to clean up their mess a take the heat. What is the worse is that Oboma put us in 2 wars and now threatens to not pay the solders. That is as low as it goes.

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