The last tour boat from Fort Sumter — for who knows how long — to the embarkation point off Liberty Square in Charleston arrived at 4:45 p.m. Monday.
Tourists Linda and George Grey of New Jersey were on board. They joked with some of the other 200 passengers about what the pending government shutdown would mean for them when it came to getting themselves off of the historic site where the Civil War began.
“We laughed about that if we didn’t make the boat, we’d be stuck out there,” she said of the possibility that no more tours would move this week.
Around Charleston, thousands of federal employees, along with those who use or need government services, went to bed Monday wondering what the morning will bring.
Here’s what else to expect around the Lowcountry if Washington remains at loggerheads and the government’s business shuts down:
Joint Base Charleston
Employees should show up to work as normal to the more than 50 military commands in the Charleston area, a spokesman said.
If a shutdown is put into motion, managers today will give employees about four hours to go through what is being termed “an orderly shutdown of work.” Today shouldn’t be considered “a snow day,” a spokesman said.
The 628th Air Base Wing has more than 800 “appropriated fund” civilian workers who could be affected by a government shutdown. More than 5,000 civilians throughout the Joint Base Charleston installation could be affected.
The only civilian personnel allowed to work during a furlough are persons excepted by Defense Department policy, such as those who perform safety and security duties, including firefighters and police.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Charleston office will operate on the same four-hour reporting time as the base.
The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston will not close if the federal government suspends business.
“We are maintaining normal operations,” VA spokeswoman Tonya Lobbestael said.
This includes every VA Medical Center in the country and all regional satellite clinics. Patients should arrive for their scheduled appointments as planned.
None of the other hospitals in the region or the federally qualified health centers, including the Franklin C. Fetter Family Health Center, will be affected.
There should be no interruption in the U.S. mail. The Postal Service is self-funded and therefore will remain open. Even the post offices that are housed inside federal buildings would remain operational, according to a spokesperson.
The Department of Justice, which covers several departments including the U.S. Attorney’s Office, likely will see few changes, including at the federal courthouse in Charleston. Due to the agency’s role in protecting human life and property, a significant portion of the agency is exempt from shutting down, according to the agency’s 2014 contingency plan. Criminal hearings will continue, but some civil litigation cases would be postponed.
The U.S. Marshals will also continue their services. FBI agents are not subject to furloughs either and only 14 percent of the FBI’s 35,385 employees are subject to furloughs.
Port of Charleston
The S.C. Ports Authority, which runs several commercial cargo terminals in the region, expects its operations to continue as usual.
“We expect no effects from a potential government shutdown, and our employees are a part of the state system,” according to a statement from Matt Tomsic, an SPA spokesman. “We remain hopeful that Congress will be able to avoid a shutdown.”
The jobs affected at the high-tech Navy installation in Berkeley County known as SPAWAR Systems Center Atlantic will be minimal. Only about 35 paid interns will have to stay home. Furloughs won’t apply to the majority of the 2,600 employees because the post is a Navy Working Capital Fund. NWCFs are able to continue operating as long as they maintain a positive cash balance. If the government is shut down for an extended period of time, the situation would be reassessed.
Federal aviation and transportation
Air traffic controllers are not affected by the federal government shutdown. But workers handling aircraft certification and support work are among the 15,514 FAA employees due to be furloughed, according to contingency plans posted on the Transportation Department’s website.
The delivery of some of Boeing’s aircraft with new components or new configurations, including the 787 built in North Charleston, could be slowed or delayed, Boeing spokesman John Dern said.
The Transportation Security Administration expects to retain all of its nearly 60,000 employees, except for 4,000. The agency did not say where the cuts would take place. Federal air marshals are not affected by the shutdown.
National Weather Service Charleston
“We will be open for business,” said Vern Beaver, meteorologist. A shutdown would have no effect on the agency, which is considered to be vital.
The majority of the Department of Homeland Security’s employees are expected to stay on the job, including uniformed agents and officers at the country’s borders and ports of entry, members of the Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration officers, Secret Service personnel and other law enforcement agents and officers, The Associated Press reported.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employees would continue to process green card applications.
National Park Service
In addition to Fort Sumter closing its gates, all other national park installations will be closed as well. That includes Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island and the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site in Mount Pleasant.
South Carolina Department of Education officials don’t have immediate concerns about schools serving grades K-12 missing out on federal funds, but districts might face a delay in receiving some money, said Scott English, chief operating officer for the department.
The biggest chunk of federal funding that goes to local districts helps pay for services for low-income students and students with disabilities, training for staff, and career and technology-education efforts. Most of that money already has been appropriated, he said.
Schools also rely on federal money to run their breakfast and lunch programs, but English said he’s not anticipating a disruption to that funding, either.
“We don’t see a red alert just yet,” he said.
Post and Courier reporters Diette Courrege Casey, Natalie Caula, Schuyler Kropf, Tyrone Richardson, Lauren Sausser, Warren Wise and The Associated Press contributed.
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