Updated — (Tuesday: 4:33 p.m.) Thousands of federal workers went into the office today, but were sent home early and won’t know when they’ll be permitted to return.
The government shutdown went into effect after midnight Tuesday and led to furloughs of employees throughout the area, with workers at Fort Meade among the most impacted. The morning commute was fairly typical, as federal government employees were asked to report to work to receive formal furlough notices.
By late morning cars were streaming out of the Fort Meade gates as if it was the afternoon rush.
The Department of Defense said the shutdown would likely mean furloughs for about 400,000 workers. But at Fort Meade, it remained unclear how many would be classified as “essential” and therefore exempt from furlough.
“Our lawyers are now looking through the law that the president signed … to see if there’s any margin here, or widening in the interpretation of the law of exempt versus non-exempt civilians,” Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said in an interview with the Armed Forces Press Service. “But it’s a priority that we have, that we’re working on right now. It’s, in fact, the priority in our general counsel’s office.”
About half of the Fort Meade garrison staff has been furloughed, including offices related to public affairs, contracting, logistics and public works. The fire and police departments will remain operational, along with some other departments, including child development services and the post exchange.
With members of Congress unable to strike a deal on a continuing budget resolution Monday night, local residents were left wondering how to deal with loss of income for an indefinite period.
“Shame on them for not doing a better job to work together so that I don't have to worry about getting only half a paycheck next Friday,” said Mary Walsh McKaig, a NASA employee. “I’m certainly not going to get half of my bills.”
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-2nd District) urged his fellow members of Congress to "set aside ideological leanings" and pass a clean bill to fund the government.
"The effects of this shutdown will be felt acutely here in Maryland, home to more than 140,000 federal employees and contractors," Ruppersberger said. Many of these hard-working men and women – including my staff and constituents – are now facing indefinite furloughs, jeopardizing their ability to support their families, their communities and their country."
Odenton resident Mark Govoni, a U.S. Census Department employee, summed up his situation thusly: “Two kids, a mortgage, and daycare. This is gonna hurt.”