COLUMBIA — The effect of the federal government’s partial shutdown in South Carolina appeared spotty Wednesday, hitting some worse than others on its second day.
Congaree National Park and several popular historic sites favored by tourists near Charleston, such as Forts Sumter and Moultrie, remained closed. The Strom Thurmond Federal Building in Columbia was bereft of workers as Washington remained gridlocked over Republicans’ efforts to block or postpone President Barack Obama’s health care law.
Yet Army recruits at Columbia’s Fort Jackson and Marines at Parris Island continued their training, even as thousands of Defense Department civilians employed at the state’s eight major military installations were sent home.
Sue Partridge, president of Beaufort’s local union chapter of the American Federation of Government Employees, said she thinks about 1,200 people were sent home from the Marine Corps Air Station at Beaufort and the Marine Corps Recruiting Depot at Parris Island.
Partridge said the worst part of the situation is the uncertainty about whether the closure could drag on for days, or even weeks. She and several other furloughed federal employees said they intended to continue a protest rally Thursday if the shutdown continues.
“Nobody knows if they’re going to have money to feed their families, pay their mortgage, or even have gas to go to work,” Partridge said.
South Carolina’s Army and Air National Guard said they remain on the job in case of any emergency, but that up to 1,200 federal technicians who support the Guard are being furloughed until federal funding resumes.
“People are our most valuable resource,” said Maj. Gen. Robert Livingston, the state’s adjutant general and two-star commander of Guard forces.
He said 48 technicians who are either deployed or in crucial roles have been exempted, as well as another 125 technicians working at McEntire Joint National Guard Base outside Eastover readying for a pending deployment.
Based on the duration of the shutdown, Livingston said further assessments will have to be made about drill weekend schedules, attendance at military schools and annual training schedules.
At some agencies, adjustments were being made: The state’s labor agency says employers won’t be penalized given the federal shutdown of its program to verify that workers are legally in the United States.
The director of the state’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation said the interruption to the program known as “E-Verify” is a concern to employers.
“I want to assure employers that during the time the federal government is shut down, LLR’s Office of Immigrant Worker Compliance will not penalize them for not being able to verify that their new hires are authorized to work in the United States,” said Holly Pisarek. The agency will have more information about extended deadlines once the shutdown has ended, a statement said.
South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control is telling its more than 122,000 clients that it has about two weeks of funds to keep money for its Women, Infants and Children supplemental food program flowing.
The department said recipients of the WIC program should continue to use their vouchers, and vendors should continue to honor them, even though the federal government has classified the program as a “nonessential” government service.
The state health agency will use reserve money to keep the program until Oct. 15, a statement said.
The Department of Social Services said it does not anticipate any immediate effects to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP. Its money is expected to continue through this month.
About 878,000 people in South Carolina receive about $1.4 billion in benefits each year through SNAP, according to DSS.