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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on January 9th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 45 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 19, Issue 45

Some local divisions of federal programs dodge shutdown


The nation is nearly three weeks into a partial government shutdown, and while many local federal employees are out of work, some federally funded programs have found ways to keep their offices staffed. 

As negotiations between the Trump administration and Democratic Party leaders over funding for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico continue, hundreds of thousands of federal employees throughout the country will go without pay. 

U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) said that of the nearly 800,000 federal workers who are furloughed or laid off, about 30,000 are Californians. 

"They are worried about how to put food on the table for their families," Carbajal said. 

It's unclear how long the shutdown will last, but until then, agencies like the California Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program and the Department of Social Services will continue staffing offices and offering much-needed services. WIC, a nutrition education program, provides low-income families with checks for healthy groceries, nutrition and breastfeeding education, and referrals to health care and community support services.

The Los Padres has gone largely unscathed throughout the government shutdown, according to ForestWatch officials. Pictured: Jeff Kuyper, who leads Los Padres ForestWatch, in Los Padres National Forest.

Nearly 15,500 Santa Barbara County residents use local WIC services, according to Jackie Ruiz, public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, and there are WIC clinics in Santa Maria, Santa Barbara, Lompoc, Carpinteria, Goleta, Solvang, Cuyama, and Guadalupe. 

Because the state WIC division has sufficient funds to run normally through early February, Ruiz said local WIC clinics will remain staffed until then and continue to offer services and benefits as usual. 

"This also means that authorized vendors, which include many grocery stores, must continue to accept WIC checks," Ruiz said, adding that any participants who struggle to use their checks should report the problem to a local WIC office. 

Some local U.S. National Forest Service employees are still working, too, but under different circumstances. The Sun contacted the Forest Service for comment, but was unable to reach anyone.

Bryant Baker, conservation director with Los Padres ForestWatch, an organization that works to protect Los Padres National Forest and other public lands, said that while most Forest Service employees are furloughed, some who specialize in law enforcement and fire protection services are still working. 

Those few employees, who respond to emergency situations, are typically exempt from government shutdowns, Baker said, and for good reason. Los Padres is still under a fire restriction that prohibits firearm target practice in many areas, and Baker said those regulation need to be enforced. 

Still, he said Forest Service staff is limited, most ranger stations and other facilities are closed, and Los Padres is a large forest, making it difficult for so few employees to ensure that rules are being followed. 

"So any time you have a reduction in staff who are doing those things in the Forest Service," Baker said, "there is a potential for problems." 

Several volunteer projects within the forest have been canceled or delayed because of the shutdown, and some campgrounds are closed, as are most facilities. But Baker said Los Padres isn't as heavily visited as many of the state's other federally managed public lands, so it hasn't yet had some of the serious trash and bathroom issues faced by others like Joshua Tree, which announced on Jan. 8 it would officially close due to damages caused during the shutdown. 

But Baker said it's the federal employees who aren't working who are truly feeling the effects of this shutdown.

"They're not receiving pay," Baker said. 

Weekly Poll
Should the proposed aquifer exemption in Cat Canyon be approved?

Yes—the water from the proposed area can't serve as drinking water.
No—oil containments could still pollute usable groundwater.
Additional oil and gas projects can create more jobs.
We need to move away from oil and gas and look at renewable energy projects.

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