Is Shelby feeling the shutdown?

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USDA office is closed, but some unsurprised

By Lisa King

Around Shelby County, as word spread Tuesday that the federal government had closed doors, sent employees home and cut funding in an overall budget shutdown, the public’s reaction ranged from anger to disappointment to indifference.

The only element of the lack of a new federal spending bill that would keep government offices and facilities open about which people agreed was that they were not shocked.

“I think it’s sad that they can’t get together and the make the country run the way it should,” said Leon Federle, director of the Shelby County Animal Shelter.

He was addressing Congress, which couldn’t agree on the best way to approach the funding problem. The Republican-controlled House wanted to delay the launch of the Affordable Care Act as part of an increase in funding for government expenses. The Democrat-controlled Senate – and President Barack Obama – opposed attaching that step.

Some people were willing to talk but declined to disclose their names.

“I hope they don’t spend any more money while they’re shut down,” said one woman while standing in line to mail a package at the Shelbyville Post Office.

Said another: “You can’t believe anything they say. It’s all lies.”

Ruth Hodge, owner of It’s Convenient, said she was amazed when she tried to log onto a federal Web site to post some census information.

“It was shut down,” she said.

Some observers are suggesting the shutdown would continue for at least a week. In 1995, there was a similar shutdown as well.

In the meantime, Shelby waits along with the rest of the country to see if that will happen.

U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Vanceburg), whose District 4 includes Shelby County, said he was not in favor of Monday night’s proposal.

“The proposal last night that was on the floor of the House of Representatives would have funded all of Obamacare, and I voted against it because I told people I wouldn’t vote for a continuing resolution that does fund Obamacare,” he said.

About the shutdown, Massie said that no major consequences would be felt immediately.

“The mail will still run and Social Security checks will still go out, and food stamps will still work,” he said. “The practical result of the shutdown will be that no new research will start, and essential parts of government will stay open, but the non essentials won’t.”

Many people are wondering just what the government considers “nonessential.”

Shelbyville Postmaster Vince Birk said postal employees were worried about the shutdown and wondered what to do, so an E-mail was sent out to all postal employees informing them to report to work as usual in the event of a federal government shutdown.

“We’re not affected at all because we don’t receive any tax dollars,” he said. “We’re part of the federal government because everything has to go through the postal rate commission, but our revenues are made by private sales of our products and services.”

Most other federal government agencies are also open and operating, such as courts, social services and veterans administration offices.

One area that has been impacted however, is the USDA office on Breighton Boulevard in Shelbyville, which houses the Farm Service Agency office for this district and the Soil Conservation District Office, among others. On its front door was a large sign explaining that the office would be closed until “further notice.”

Ann Griffin, administrative assistant of Shelby’s conservation district, said that people began calling Monday in anticipation of the shutdown, with concerns that they would not be able to make payments on their farm loans.

“This whole USDA service center is shut down,” she said. “The Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Conservation District and Farm Service Agency and Rural Development is all in this building, and I’ve had people calling, wanting to know about paying on their loans, because this is the first of the month, and they have to make their payments

“So they won’t be able to payments until we’re back up and running again. It could be tomorrow, so we hope it’s probably not going to be a big deal. But we are shut down until further notice.”

Paul Hornback, a farmer and state senator (R-Shelbyville), said he had heard some people expressing doubt about being able to see a physician.

“People don’t have to be scared about going to the doctor; they’ve still got Medicare,” he said.  “Those things will not change in the short term; if it drags on, then it could start affecting people personally.”

Massie said that there was only one thing that everyone involved agreed on – military personnel should be paid.

However, military personnel will not have weekend drills until the shutdown is over. Lt. Col. Kirk Hilbrecht, director of public affairs for the Kentucky National Guard, said that those activities will not take place until the 2014 fiscal year funding is in place. The National Guard Center and recruiting centers will remain open, however, he said.

“In all of this turmoil yesterday [Monday], one thing did happen – the House passed a stand-alone bill to pay our soldiers, and the Senate passed it by unanimous consent,” Massie said. “Every Republican and Democrat in both chambers agreed to pay our military.”

Massie said that’s the kind of cooperation that needs to catch on.

“As a practical strategy for moving forward, I hope here in the House of Representatives, that we can pass more mini-continuing resolutions to fund the parts of government that we agree need to be funded without attaching conditions to them,” he said.