Shutdown shouldn’t hamstring Kauai

LIHUE — A looming budget crisis that could shut down the Department of Homeland Security shouldn’t be felt much around Kauai despite the fact that the federal positions are a part of the Garden Isle workforce.

That’s because employees would continue working essential jobs with delays in pay, some local officials said.

Still, it doesn’t mean a shutdown wouldn’t be without its effects.

“A shutdown of DHS would have significant impacts to our Homeland Security operations,” DHS spokeswoman Marsha Catron said.

Furloughs, she said, would be issued to 30,000 administrative and non-essential workers, which is about 15 percent of the DHS workforce. The remaining workers who perform vital functions, including the U.S. Coast Guard and Transportation Security Administration employees at Lihue Airport, and wouldn’t be hit by the potential downtime.

Roy Catalani, Young Brothers vice president of strategic planning and government affairs, said he expects the jobs that harbor traffic, like TSA and the Coast Guard, will continue in the event of a shutdown.

“Young Brothers expects no disruption to service in the event that Congress does not agree to a funding bill by Friday,” Catalani said.

A DHS shutdown is imminent, if Congress does not reach an agreement later this week. Talks on the spending bill stalled as parties differed on immigration issues.

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, offered Tuesday to permit a vote on Homeland Security funding legislation that was stripped of immigration provisions. House Republicans were scheduled to meet privately today to discuss the issue.

In a Monday press release, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft said the department’s missions depend on reliable and predictable complete year funding. A shutdown would present a critical impact on maritime security and the 88,000 active duty Coast Guard, reserve, civilian and auxiliary members.

“Unreliable funding jeopardizes aircraft, cutter and boat maintenance and operations,” Zukunft stated.

The Coast Guard will continue its mission through a shutdown but would curtail operations in several key mission areas, including routine law enforcement patrols and facility inspections; fisheries enforcement; mariner licensing and credentialing; certain vessel inspection and waterways management activities; and recreational boating safety.

It would result in a work-without-pay situation, more than 6,000 civilian furloughs, delays in benefits to retired personnel, and nearly $1 billion in acquisition and maintenance contracts deferred or disrupted.

“These delays erode the security of our maritime borders,” Zukunft said.

Catron said around 200,000 employees fall into essential categories, including TSA, Border Patrol and Secret Service. Most will not draw a paycheck until the situation is resolved. The Federal Air Marshal Service is exempt, but about 10 percent of the TSA workforce nationwide, or 5,500 employees, would be furloughed.

DHS and FEMA personnel working on grants programs would be furloughed, Catron said. A prolonged shutdown could mean eliminating jobs or programs in local communities using grant funding.

Though the state Department of Public Safety receives DHS grants, a shutdown would not effect the prison, jails, or state deputy sheriffs at airports, courthouses and government buildings around the state, department spokeswoman Toni Schwartz said.

“There’s no impact on our department that we know of,” Schwartz said. “All grants we applied for were already awarded.”

Travel interruptions for county employees scheduled for trainings and work-related events off island is of concern, said county spokeswoman Sarah Blane. However, she said, a short-term shutdown would have little to no effect to county departments and agencies.

Public safety concerns have to do with long-term impacts of federal funding for programs and hirings.

“If the shutdown continues to a point where security points are compromised, we will have to assess the situation and make decisions based on current information,” Kauai Police Chief Darryl Perry said.

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