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USFS closed, other federal agencies not impacted yet

SHERIDAN — While the federal government has a smaller presence in Sheridan than other cities, some local agencies will be impacted by the government shutdown that went into effect early this morning.

Forest Supervisor Bill  Bass said this morning that 12-15 of his workforce in Sheridan, Greybull, Lovell and Buffalo will continue working under what he called “excepted status,” meaning they will be limited to specific duties and otherwise be on call.

Bass said the four offices employ approximately 100 permanent staff and 40-50 seasonal workers.

All offices for the U.S. Forest Service are closed and are in the process of an orderly shutdown.

Bass said skeletal crews will be available, primarily including law enforcement, wildfire response and line officers. For emergencies, Bass recommended people work through the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office.

He added that his staff is also working with contractors to shutdown.

Most paid campgrounds and the visitor centers have already been closed for the season, but Bass said dispersed camping on the Bighorn National Forest is still available.

As for staff morale, Bass said there is some concern.

“You could speculate that financially, everybody is concerned because whether anybody is going to be paid is a congressional discretion,” he said.

Other agencies will be less impacted.

The local postal service will not be affected by the shutdown since the U.S. Postal Service has independent sources of funding.

The Veterans Affairs Medical Center will not shutdown. All services at the Sheridan VA Medical Center will remain open and available.

“It’s business as usual here,” VA Medical Center Public Affairs Director Jackie Van Mark said.

The Veterans Health Administration, which operates VA medical centers, has a two-year budget and is funded for fiscal year 2014, Van Mark said.

“Regarding health care: It’s important to know that the Veterans Health Administration, the branch of VA that operates our VA medical centers, including the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Sheridan, Wyo., has advance appropriations for fiscal year 2014. This means that our hospitals, clinics and other health services will remain open,” according to an official statement from the Veterans Health Administration sent to The Sheridan Press by Van Mark.

If the government shutdown lasts longer than a few weeks, some services for veterans could be impacted.

“Regarding benefits payments administered by the Veterans Benefits Administration: Claims processing and payments in the compensation, pension, education and vocational rehabilitation programs are anticipated to continue through late October. However, in the event of a prolonged shutdown, claims processing and payments in these programs would be suspended as available funding is exhausted,” the statement said.

Interments will continue through the National Cemetery Administration but may be on a reduced schedule.

The Department of Veterans Affairs will continue to review and update its plan in conjunction with applicable legal requirements and circumstances in the event of a prolonged shutdown, according to the official statement.

Find more information and updates about VA services at www.va.gov.

The Sheridan County Public Health Department will not be affected by the government shutdown.

Toby Granger, registered nurse at the public health department, said they are not federal employees, and the department will not close. Flu clinics will continue as scheduled, Granger said.

Granger did note that if the Centers for Disease Control stops its seasonal flu program, it will make the CDC difficult to use as a resource. Otherwise, services will continue as usual.

 

 

About

Hannah Wiest is the government and outdoors reporter for The Sheridan Press. She has lived in Colorado and Montana but loves her sunny home state of Wyoming best. She joined The Press staff in February 2013.

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