The 300 essential personnel who would stay on include about 150 so-called “resident inspectors.” They serve as the NRC’s eyes and ears at nuclear plants. They also include employees who support emergency response, investigators, a skeleton management team, the five NRC commissioners and a few commission staff members, the NRC said.Meanwhile, 100 guards at a minimum-security federal prison camp in Yankton, South Dakota, and 300 in Oxford, Wisconsin, are going to work without pay, just as are the other 36,000 federal prison employees.
"Basically, we are working right now on an IOU for the government, and we have families to support. We have bills to pay, and we're expected to be here," American Federation of Government Employees Local 4040 Union President Michele Kunkel said. Ironically, prisoners who work are being paid because money for that comes from a separate fund.
Below the fold you can read about more of this insanity.
• Weekly unemployment claims skyrocketed well above the six-month average partly as a result of layoffs among private contractors, according to statistics gathered by the states. Perhaps as many as 15,000 of the new claims can be attributed to contractor uncertainty over when the shutdown will come to an end.
• Veterans will lose income if the shutdown drags on until end of October. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki told members of Congress Wednesday that 5.18 million veterans and their families would not receive government checks if the department's funds were not restored by Nov. 1.
• National Weather Service is being hampered by a variety of shutdown-related issues. These include meteorologists having to mop their own office floors because janitorial services have been stopped. There will be no replacement of broken flood-monitoring river gauges, no access to historical data for comparisons and no preventive maintenance for weather radar and other instruments used by airports for the duration.
• The website enigma is keeping track of a few shutdown items. Among them is a tally of unpaid vouchers for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The program for low-income women and their children provides support for breast-feeding and money for cereal, vegetables, fruit and infant formula. It is seen as one of the most effective programs for reducing infant mortality and malnourishment. As of noon PT Thursday, a total of $125 million in WIC vouchers had gone unpaid. The website has not updated its statistics on the Department of Defense. Most of the 400,000 furloughed there have been recalled.
• Goats laid off from national park duties. Larry Cihanek has some 65 goats that are usually at work nibbling the weeds at federal parks. But only three of them were on the job Wednesday, munch-mowing the grounds at a local park in Easton, Pennsylvania. The rest were at Cihanek's farm. "My goats live the American dream," an optimistic Cihanek told The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa. "They eat for a living."
• California hasn't yet decided whether it will pony up the money to keep food stamps, subsidized school breakfasts and lunches and the WIC program going until the federal shutdown is over. That would be an expensive prospect even if the shutdown only ran for a couple more weeks. It's not just economics, it's also politics. If California and other states chose to take such action to ease matters for the people directly affected, it might encourage Republicans who think they are benefiting from the shutdown to keep it going since the pain caused would be lessened by state action.
• Bureau of Land Management employees responsible for removing trash in the White Mountain National Recreation Area of Alaska have been furloughed. Supposedly bear-proof garbage cans at two trailheads there have attracted grizzly bears for the free meals now available. No human-grizzly contact so far, but it could be just a matter of time as the big bears get habituated to the cuisine at the trailheads. Alaska's Republican Gov. Sean Parnell has complained about the closure of national wildlife refuges in a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell: "It is perplexing that the USFWS has chosen to adopt a nationwide approach, not allowing any discretion to recognize the unique situation and needs in Alaska and the mandates and commitments" ...
• Arizona gray wolves could be casualties of shutdown. With U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officers on furlough, wolves (and other endangered species) are at risk. That applies both to controlling poachers and in making timely management decisions that affect the future recovery of the wolves. Because populations of gray wolves have risen since the animal was reintroduced into the Lower 48 U.S. states, the USFWS recently proposed removing it from the endangered list even though wolves are still confined to a very small part of their range when Europeans arrived on the continent. Any decision about delisting will have to wait until the government is back in business.
• No government-enforced automobile recalls will happen because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has furloughed employees who investigate safety complaints and order carmakers to recall vehicles. Investigations already under way when the shutdown began have been stopped. Complaints can still be filed at the agency's website but they won't be acted on until Congress acts to get things rolling again. The NHTSA is also not investigating road accidents.
• The Environmental Protection Agency is mostly shut down, which means that it's not protecting the public's health and safety in a wide range of activities. Many Republicans have expressed glee about this, the EPA being one of their chief targets for "reform" (read: dismantling). But when their oxen are getting gored it's another story. Biofuels proponent Rep. Steve King of Iowa said Wednesday he saw no reason the EPA couldn’t keep writing a biofuels standard that he backs. “I don’t know that a month delay, perhaps, at EPA is something that is going to push us back that far.”