A sign announcing closure due to the federal government shutdown hangs on the outer door of the USDA offices on Perry Street, Ottawa. (Putnam Sentinel/Anne Coburn-Griffis)
A sign announcing closure due to the federal government shutdown hangs on the outer door of the USDA offices on Perry Street, Ottawa. (Putnam Sentinel/Anne Coburn-Griffis)

PUTNAM COUNTY - Only individuals in complete isolation, in environments totally void of communication beyond their four walls or the cave entrance, could be unaware that the federal government of the United States is currently shutdown. Enter any government website and you will be greeted with a message informing visitors that either the website is unavailable or its services are limited due to Congress's failure to pass an operating budget beyond Oct. 1, 2013.

The shutdown is currently in progress due to disagreements regarding inclusion of language defunding or delaying the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly called the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare).

This isn't the first time the federal government has come to a budget stalemate. Since 1976, the United States Federal Government has had funding gaps on 18 occasions, although those prior to 1981 didn't result in major office closure.

President Gerald Ford led the pack in 1976 when he vetoed a funding bill for the United States Department of Labor and the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, leading to a partial government shutdown. There were two shutdowns under Bill Clinton, one under George H. W Bush, five during Jimmy Carter's term in office and eight under Ronald Reagan.

Thus far, the shutdown has not affected the daily lives of most Putnam County residents. The Blanchard River Flood Mitigation has been cancelled. The announcement from Ottawa Village Council Member Deb Bauer came on the heels of an Oct. 2 press release from the United States Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District, stating "a lapse in appropriations requires certain activities to stop" including furloughs of nonessential personnel.

Mike Pniewski, the Corps Program Manager for the Western Lake Erie District Basin, is the project manager in the Blanchard River Flood Mitigation process.

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"It is my understanding that Mike Pniewski is not furloughed, but is not permitted to travel outside of his office during this time," said Bauer.

For the most part, however, it is business as usual at the local level.

"I haven't seen anything that has affected us so far," says County Commissioner John Love. "We were denied our extension on our National Emergency Grant for river cleanup, but I think the Colorado [flooding disaster] had something to do with that."

Kim Diamond, director of Putnam County Job and Family Services, reports that county residents are still able to benefit from the services provided by their Ottawa office.

"Currently, the state is covering any and all costs for all of the programs," says Diamond. "There's no effect as yet. I'm sure it depends on how long it continues."

The United States Department of Agriculture on Perry Street in Ottawa provides services to local farmers. Those offices are closed due to the shutdown.

"We work with the Farm Service Agency and they are not available, so we can't get certain funding for programs right now," said Kathy Schnipke, branch manager for Ag Credit, an agricultural lending cooperative in Ottawa. "That's an immediate thing we've seen. But so far so good. Who knows how it will have an effect on interest rates down the line. If the shutdown goes on, we may see other things. We're in uncharted waters."
story created on Monday 10/7/2013 at 3:56:45 pm by Anne Coburn-Griffis
story modified on Tuesday 10/8/2013 at 6:59:54 pm by Kirk Dougal