Updated: Many furloughed over shutdown
Many federal employees throughout East Central Illinois reported for work this morning, only to be told to go home.
At the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service and Rural Development offices in Champaign, an estimated 80 people were idled by the government shutdown, said NRCS spokeswoman Paige Buck.
"This hasn't happened in 17 years," Buck said, adding she was optimistic the impasse would be resolved soon.
Fifty-five people who work at the U.S. Geological Survey's Illinois Water Science Center in Urbana were affected by the shutdown, as were 13 in DeKalb and four in Mount Vernon, said Doug Yeskis, the center's director.
Employees there this morning were turning off computers, setting up voicemail and directing website users to alternate sites, Yeskis said.
However, much of the real-time data collected by the center will still be compiled and available at a website, he said.
The center maintains a stream gauge network and monitors groundwater quality, among other things.
At the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Construction Engineering Research Laboratory in Champaign, 21 people were slated to be furloughed, said spokeswoman Dana Finney.
Remaining employees would be funded by last fiscal year's authorization, she said. But that funding could run out, depending on how long the shutdown lasts.
If that happens, others at CERL — with the exceptions of those in a few areas, such as security — could be subject to furloughs, she said.
At Willard Airport, air traffic controllers remained on the job this morning, and only one Federal Aviation Administration employee there — a secretary — was sent home.
"All the controllers are still on the job," said Larry Wixom, the air traffic manager at Willard.
Also continuing to operate as usual were most functions of the federal judiciary.
"We're working with reserve funds that allow the courts and federal judiciary to operate up to 10 days," said Ken Wells, the U.S. district clerk for central Illinois.
Cases were continuing to move through, and clerk's offices remained open, he said, adding that the federal defenders and federal probation office also fall under the judicial branch.
However, Wells said the U.S. attorney's office and the federal marshals office are part of the executive branch and face different circumstances.
A call placed to Sharon Paul, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Springfield, yielded a voicemail message that she would be away from the office during "the government funding lapse" and unable to return calls.
Local Social Security offices are open for "limited services," according to a recorded message on a toll-free Social Security line. The message encouraged people to seek services online.
Due to the shutdown and limited staffing at agencies like the National Science Foundation, University of Illinois proposals for new funding will not be processed.
"The largest impact in the short term, and we don't know how long the shutdown will last, will be that no new awards or approvals could be made," said UI spokesman Tom Hardy.
Existing grants and contracts that have been authorized and funded are going forward, he said. In recent weeks research administrators on the three campuses noticed an uptick in federal funding agencies processing pending grants and contracts, Hardy said.
Laura Bleill, assistant director, external relations, at the UI Research Park, said that if the shutdown continues, Small Business Innovation Research grants for several companies at the research park could be affected.
Dan Mann, director of financial aid at the University of Illinois said his department was "pretty much pretty unaffected by it at this point."
The university has already received "the vast majority" of student financial aid, including federal grants and loans, for the semester that began in August, he said.