Some federal offices in Imperial County were still being staffed as the partial government shutdown slogged into its second month, albeit with reduced personnel or employees working without getting paid.
Carlos Pitones, public information officer for the El Centro Sector of the U.S. Border Patrol, explained on Jan. 17 he was one of those considered essential and therefore required to continue to work despite not getting paid.
There are 900 agents in the El Centro Sector and all are affected in some way but Pitones could not answer how many of those were working without pay or furloughed. He added no agents have refused to come to work even though they were informed they would not be paid. “We’re all hoping it will soon come to an end,” he said.
Border Patrol employees are affected because they under the oversight of the Department of Homeland Security, which is without funding due to the budget impasse between President Donald J. Trump and Congressional Democrats.
Meanwhile, military personnel at the Naval Air Facility El Centro are spared because they are under the Defense Department that has already been fully funded for 2019 fiscal year that runs Oct. 1-Sept. 30, noted Kris Haugh, base public affairs officer.
At the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge near Calipatria assistant manager Thomas Anderson explained the facility is working with a crew of two who are on exempt status while the remaining seven personnel are on furlough until the government re-opens. The two remaining employees are principally there to monitor equipment and clean up refuse.
At the El Centro Internal Revenue Office, a recording informs callers that owing to the current budget situation all IRS Offices are closed and will resume normal operations as soon as possible.
The IRS recording also explained that under federal law all tax payments and filing deadlines remain in effect. People are urged to file and pay their taxes as normal. There are still many self-service tools available and the IRS encouraged people to visit www.irs.gov for the latest information.
Meanwhile, local efforts were underway to assist federal workers feeling the shutdown pinch. Several cities offered temporary clemency for payment of utility bills and the county Department of Social Services on Jan. 22 held a second forum to connect those workers with assistance.
“The event (on Jan. 22) had 120 people that attended and we are not sure if we will have another event yet,” Javier Duran, Social Services deputy director, stated in an e-mail.
The first event on Jan. 14 attracted about 200 federal employees
The events included the state Employment Development Department, Inland Fair Housing, First Imperial Credit Union and Sun Community Federal Credit Union on hand to assist with basic needs, loan deferments and unemployment benefits.
Mario Conde contributed to this report.