Boro feels effects of federal shutdown

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana
By Rich Bockmann

As the country entered the second week of the federal government shutdown with no end in sight, members of the Queens congressional delegation said their constituents were feeling the impact.

“The GOP shutdown is hurting millions of Americans including children, seniors, veterans and small businesses,” U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) said. “The House Republicans continue to waste valuable time dealing with many of the important issues facing our nation, such as improving the economy, immigration reform, raising the debt ceiling and gun control, just to name a few.”

On the issue of immigration reform, U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) would certainly agree. The congressman was among several arrested Tuesday for protesting lack of movement on immigration reform.

“I believe in my heart that this is one of the most critical human rights issues facing us today,” he said in a statement. “Unfortunately, one of the many consequences of this Republican shutdown is the fact that pressing issues like the urgent need to address our nation’s broken immigration system have been forced to the back burner. In standing with my colleagues and dedicated advocates, we are helping to give a voice to those who would otherwise have none.”

Employees at federal offices across the borough were going without paychecks, although some said they had the understanding they would be paid once Washington got back to work.

“People have families to take care of, mortgages and childcare to worry about,” said one employee at the Social Security Administration office in Jamaica who asked not to be identified.

Employees at the office who process claims and answer calls to the agency’s 800-number were still at work, but those who staff the part of the office that distributes cards were told to stay home and guards outside the office were turning away visitors.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the shutdown could delay distribution of federal aid for Superstorm Sandy to areas including the Rockaways.

“Because Community Development Block Grants and other types of federal aid require approvals and constant correspondence with federal officials, we have been advised that delays in vital and mandatory tasks are inevitable,” Bloomberg said during his radio program Sunday, according to the transcript provided by his office. “If, for example, you’re a business owner in the Rockaways, this could mean a longer wait time to get grants and loans — prolonging what has been an already difficult and cumbersome process for so many.”

“In addition, critical infrastructure projects that rely on federal funding — dunes replenishment and coastal protections to help safeguard millions of New Yorkers — may see additional delays,” the mayor added. “Moreover, despite all approvals being in place, the federal government has yet to release the second installment of Sandy recovery funds — and this shutdown should not be used as an excuse to further delay funds that have already been appropriated.”

U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) said congressional Democrats could use a legislative maneuver known as a motion to discharge — the same that was used in the City Council earlier this year to allow a vote on the Community Safety Act — to bring about a vote on a no-strings-attached continuing resolution to end the shutdown.

“I think that it’s going to be left up to 24 or more moderate Republicans who are starting to say more and more that they want a clean vote on the CR so we can put the government back to work,” he said, noting that the procedure would take until at least Nov. 15 to go into effect. “It’s really a last option. I hope something gets resolved before then.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

More from Around New York