Shutdown

A sign at the IRS building on Sanger Avenue states the office is closed because of the federal government shutdown that started Dec. 22.

The partial government shutdown has evoked a wait-and-see mentality from several McLennan County institutions, organizations and projects reliant on federal funding.

Congress’ adjournment Friday ensured it would be the longest federal shutdown in the country’s history. The standoff is based on border security and President Donald Trump’s $5 billion demand to fund a wall along the southern border.

Democrats call the concept of the wall immoral and unnecessary, while Republicans are standing by Trump as he toys with the idea of declaring a national emergency that could unlock Department of Defense money for use on the wall.

Local officials in a variety of sectors are closely watching the situation, some workers have been furloughed or working without pay, and some local federal offices have remained closed since the shutdown started Dec. 22.

Six to eight TSA agents at Waco Regional Airport have gone without pay during the shutdown, director of aviation Joel Martinez said. Several air traffic controllers who are Federal Aviation Administration employees are also working without pay, Martinez said.

“At this time, we have not experienced any delays or inconvenience due to the shutdown,” he said by email.

The IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center at 6801 Sanger Ave. has been closed for the shutdown. The Trump administration has said tax refunds will be sent out, but lawmakers and experts have said it is not clear whether the IRS will have the authority to do so during a shutdown, Vox reported.

Delivery of services at the Salvation Army in Waco have not been affected, but the shutdown has delayed payment of federal grant money to the organization, according to a Salvation Army statement. The grants that have been delayed are paid out as reimbursements as the Salvation Army provides services and documents the costs.

“While the receipt of funding has been delayed, The Salvation Army Waco remains steadfast in our commitment to continue providing these services, in anticipation that funds will be reimbursed retroactively,” according to the statement. “We join the nation in prayer that our government leaders will find resolution soon.”

Despite the closure of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Service Center at 5040 S. Loop 340, local farmers are not yet feeling the burdens of the shutdown, Texas Farm Bureau spokesman Gene Hall said.

Deadlines to sign up for federal programs and apply for loans will be extended by the number of days the shutdown lasts.

“That’s not to say at some point this could get serious,” Hall said. “But right now, it hasn’t risen to the level of a crisis.”

The Waco Mammoth National Monument, which is operated in part by the city of Waco, remains open to the public. One of its two National Parks Service rangers was already on leave, and the other has been furloughed because of the shutdown.

The monument’s website, along with other national parks’ websites, will not be updated during the shutdown, according to a notice on the site.

Baylor University President Linda Livingstone has laid out an academic plan that will require the university to dramatically increase its federally funded research, but the shutdown has not affected ongoing faculty research, spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said.

The Central Texas Veterans Health Care System is already fully funded for the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, so its operations have not been hit by the shutdown, spokeswoman Deborah Meyer said.

However, veterans make up an estimated one-third of the 800,000 federal workers furloughed because of the shutdown, ABC News reported this week.

Phillip Ericksen joined the Tribune-Herald in March 2015 as a sports copy editor. That November, he joined the news team. He has covered higher education, city hall, politics and crime.

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