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Government shutdown felt in the Valley

POSTED October 3, 2013 9:33 p.m.

For the first time in seventeen years, the federal government has been effectively shut down due to Congress’ inability to pass a budget prior to the beginning of the new fiscal year on Oct.1. With thousands of federal employees being indefinitely furloughed without pay, the affects of the ongoing shutdown can be felt throughout the entire nation.

While those across party lines may continue to point fingers at one another in a seemingly never-ending blame game, the more pressing question in the back of everyone’s mind might be – “How does this shutdown affect me and the area that I live in?”

Throughout the Central Valley, numerous federal government agencies and buildings are currently offering a limited number of services due to the ongoing shutdown as many of their non-essential employees have been placed on furlough.

The Social Security office in Modesto, for example, will continue to be open with limited services during the funding lapse but will discontinue issuing original and replacement Social Security cards. As part of the Social Security Administrations contingency plan, operation field offices will also discontinue issuing replacement Medicare cards, benefit verifications, earnings record corrections and updates, Freedom of Information Act requests, and many other aspects of daily field office activities.

 Fortunately, not all federal agencies will be affected by the shutdown. The Veterans Affairs Modesto Clinic, operated by the Veterans Health Administration, will remain open and functioning.

“All VA medical centers and clinics have advance appropriations for fiscal year 2014,” said VA Public Affairs Officer Jonathan Friedman. “This means that our hospitals, clinics and other health services will remain open. It’s important that our Veterans know that their appointments, and any other health care they need from us, will not be affected by the government shutdown.”

Representing the 10th District of California, Congressman Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) says that passing the budget every year is the most critical point in Congress and that he is dedicated to making strides on appropriation bills to avoid further pain to the American public.

“There are a number of federally funded programs being affected by the shutdown that affect the public, including my own district,” said Denham.  “I continue to be frustrated with the inaction of the Senate to come to the table and work with the House on a funding solution.”

Denham also shared his frustrations with President Barack Obama, saying that the length of the government shutdown is highly dependent on the President working together with the Senate.

“Every president in the past has always worked with the House and the Senate during a government shutdown,” said Rep. Denham. “My concern regarding the Affordable Care Act is an individual mandate that is not only an issue of fairness, but also how it inadvertently affects the Central Valley. But we have a President that picks and chooses what areas of the laws he wants to exclude.”

According to Denham, the implementation process of the ACA has “revealed problem after problem with the law, stymied job creation and slowed economic growth.”  Denham also shared that he supported an amendment to delay the ACA by one year and repeal the law’s medical device tax.

As a result of the shutdown, Denham said that he has requested to have his pay withheld until the lapse in appropriations ends. Members of both the House and Senate earn $174,000 annually.

“I did send in a letter to withhold my pay as I expect to be treated the same as every other federal employee,” said Denham.

When asked whether his pay would simply be withheld to a later date, or effectively nullified, Denham said that he was uncertain at this point, but that he expects the same outcome as the federal employees currently placed on furlough.

Although Congress has previously mandated retroactive pay for furloughed federal employees following a government shutdown, it remains unclear whether a measure requiring back pay for said employees will be implemented.

“My pay will be treated the same way as every other federal employee,” said Denham. “So whatever they decide to do with that following the lapse in appropriations would be the same scenario for me.”

While several other members of Congress have asked to have their pay withheld throughout the shutdown, others such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) have opted to donate their pay to charity.

For those within California’s 10th Congressional District with questions about the ongoing government shutdown, call Congressman Jeff Denham’s Modesto Office at 579-5458.

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