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Effects of Longest-Ever Government Shutdown Are Felt in Nome

United States Capitol Building

Employees all over the country and even within Western Alaska are working without pay or on furlough as the partial federal government shutdown nears a month in duration. Directly impacted workers include those with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and others.

In Nome, several organizations that rely on federal grants cannot finish applying for them or access those funds while the government is partially shut down. Bob Metcalf, the director of UAF Northwest Campus, found that out during a recent meeting with university higher-ups.

“We’ve learned that any new funding opportunities or any new changes to regulations are on hold because of the partial shutdown, because the federal register is also shut down. The federal register is the required place for providing information about government operations and funding opportunities.”

Metcalf was hoping to pursue a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Education funding as an institution that serves minorities, specifically Alaska Natives.

“Right now, the funding stream through the Department of Education is intact; I’m not positive about the USDA one. I think what is really impactful is being in limbo and not knowing what the specifics of any new proposal coming out would be. So the question will be, when they do come out, do they extend or delay the opportunity to apply?”

It is also unclear when the now-29-day shutdown will end, as this is a historic period of time for the U.S. government to continue on without formal funding for its employees.

In the meantime, NOAA remains out of commission, which climate specialist Rick Thoman says affects his and many other weather observers’ work.

“Some of the climate monitoring data sets that we regularly use are not available. This is particularly affecting things like sea surface temperature analyses, kind of the larger scale climate analyses. The National Centers for Environmental Information is almost completely shut down.”

According to Thoman, the National Weather Service cannot provide specialized weather products while NWS staff continues to work without pay.

“What are the temperatures doing in the Bering Sea right now? Well, that’s a lot harder to answer right now.”

Thoman says the weather and climate data is expected to be available again once the shutdown ends.

Possible options for furloughed workers at this time include applying for unemployment insurance, asking some banks or credit unions for loans, and/or to continue working without pay.

Image at top: the U.S. Capitol Building; public domain.