Austin-area federal employees expected to return to work Tuesday

Jan 22, 2018
  • By Julie Chang
  • London Gibson
  • American-Statesman Staff
Ralph Barrera
The LBJ Library and Museum remains shuttered Monday afternoon after a government shutdown took effect late last week. St. Clair, Mich., visitors Diane and Steve Sliwinski were turned away from the popular tourist destination. “We didn’t come all this way just for the museum. We’re visiting relatives and we’ll be back tomorrow,” Diane Sliwinski said. RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

As the federal government shutdown rolled into Monday — the only business day of the three-day closure — calls to affected Austin-area agencies went unanswered, building doors were locked and employees stayed home.

At Fort Hood, 40 percent of about 6,000 civilian employees were told to not come into work. When reached by cell phone, Christopher Haug, a spokesman who often responds to media calls, said he couldn’t answer questions because he was technically not supposed to be working. His colleague Thomas Rheinlander instead fielded questions.

“The remaining approximately 60 percent of the workforce adequately manned excepted services which were deemed critical to maintain national security, such as processing and training soldiers as they prepare to deploy or re-deploy as well as activities that involve safety, health, installation security and protection of life and property,” Rheinlander said.

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Anne Wheeler, spokeswoman for the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library, said she couldn’t say how many of the library staff members stayed at home because there was nobody to find the information. Two dozen employees were furloughed at the LBJ Ranch near Fredericksburg, according to Susanne McDonald, superintendent at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park.

Phone calls went unanswered to the Austin-area offices of the Internal Revenue Service.

Meanwhile, Texas state agencies as well as local governmental entities were double checking whether federal services they administered would be affected.

“As part of the Council of Great City Schools, we’ve asked if they could give some guidance on this. They said if it’s a short term shutdown, it should not have much of an impact on districts since most of the major federal programs (Titles I and II, IDEA) are forward funded, and states already have their funding for the current school year,” said Tiffany Young, spokeswoman for the Austin school district.

The federal school lunch program has been funded through at least February, according to the Texas Department of Agriculture.

By Monday afternoon, Congress finalized a deal to reopen the federal government as well as to guarantee backpay for furloughed federal workers. About 13,000 federal employees live in the Austin-Round Rock metro area.

Normal operations at affected agencies are expected to resume Tuesday.