By Dick Mason
The partial shutdown of the federal government, which began Dec. 22, is having a limited impact in Union County.
Union County residents are still receiving essential services from the federal government. These include mail delivery from the U.S. Postal Service and services from the Social Security Administration office in La Grande.
Services from some U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service, are being curtailed, however. Both Forest Service offices in La Grande, the La Grande Ranger District and the Forestry and Range Sciences Lab, are closed due to the shutdown. Signs posted at the public entrances to both Forest Service offices state: “This U.S. Department of Agriculture office is currently closed due to the lapse in federal government funding. The office will reopen once Congress restores funding.”
The closures mean the public cannot purchase Forest Service maps and permits in La Grande. However, some public services are still being provided, including law enforcement and snow removal in public use areas, according to a Forest Service spokesman.
The impact of the partial government shutdown is also being felt in the Union County offices for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Farm Service Agency and Rural Development, all located in an office building on the 1900 block of Adams Avenue in La Grande. A total of eight employees work at the offices, two of whom are now on involuntary leaves of absence, also known as furloughs, according to Mike Burton of the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Burton is not one of the two furloughed, but he knows what it is like. He was furloughed during government shutdowns in 1995-96 and 2013. Burton said it is a frustrating experience because you must stay away from the office, even when you have important work to do.
“You can’t do the things you need to, and your timelines do not change. You just end up with fewer days to get things done,” Burton said.
See complete story in Friday's Observer