Bills pil­ing up for SC fed­eral work­ers, ben­e­fit re­cip­i­ents

The Beaufort Gazette - - Front Page - BY BRIS­TOW MARCHANT [email protected]­tate.com

Fed­eral em­ployee Thomas Tal­madge still is work­ing de­spite the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s par­tial shut­down. He just isn’t get­ting paid.

Tal­madge, a drug-treat­ment spe­cial­ist at the Edge­field Fed­eral Cor­rec­tional In­sti­tu­tion, is con­sid­ered an es­sen­tial em­ployee like oth­ers in the fed­eral prison sys­tem. So he is com­mut­ing to work at the prison, even as he missed his pay­check this week and his bills pile up.

“I’ve got an 86-year-old fa­ther, one child in col­lege and an­other in mid­dle school,” Tal­madge said Thurs­day. He wor­ries his co-work­ers could start leav­ing their fed­eral job “be- cause the bill col­lec­tors don’t stop work­ing.”

Tal­madge was one of a half­dozen fed­eral em­ploy­ees who protested Thurs­day out­side U.S. Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham’s Columbia of­fice as the fed­eral shut­down dragged on for a third week. The work­ers want the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to re­open and give them their pay. They aren’t the only ones. If the shut­down con­tin­ues, thou­sands of South Carolini­ans could see fed­eral ben­e­fits — that guar­an­tee they have food and a place to live — dis­ap­pear.

In De­cem­ber, 617,516 South Carolini­ans were part of the Sup­ple­men­tal Nu­tri­tion As­sis­tance Pro­gram — or SNAP — pro­gram, which dis­trib­utes food stamps through the S.C. De­part-

ment of So­cial Ser­vices. An­other 21,305 South Carolini­ans re­ceived cash as­sis­tance from Tem­po­rary As­sis­tance for Needy Fam­i­lies in Novem­ber — 16,974 of them chil­dren.

SNAP is funded through Jan­uary. The U.S. De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture an­nounced plans Tues­day to cover SNAP re­cip­i­ents dur­ing Fe­bru­ary by ask­ing states to re­quest the money be­fore Jan. 20.

But no fund­ing would be avail­able for March, if the im­passe were to last that long.

Like­wise, fund­ing for Sec­tion 8 hous­ing will con­tinue through Fe­bru­ary, al­low­ing 4,000 re­cip­i­ents in Rich­land County and 2,000 in Lexington County to con­tinue to make rent pay­ments next month. After that, it is un­clear if any money will be avail­able for the pro­gram which sub­si­dizes hous­ing costs for low­in­come cit­i­zens.

“It’s at the dis­cre­tion of the land­lord,” said Taleshia Ste­wart, ad­min­is­tra­tion di­rec­tor of the Columbia Hous­ing Au­thor­ity. “Right now, we’re just watch­ing and wait­ing, and hop­ing there’s a res­o­lu­tion as we move closer to March 1.”

The S.C. State Hous­ing Fi­nance and De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity, which ad­min­is­ters Sec­tion 8 pay­ments in Lexington County, is more con­cerned about the mort­gages it han­dles for low­in­come home­buy­ers.

Loan pro­cess­ing at the fed­eral De­part­ment of Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment has slowed to a crawl, said spokesman Clay­ton In­gram.

“If it’s not a prob­lem, it’s at least ex­tremely in­con­ve­nient,” In­gram said.

This week, tax­pay­ers got a re­prieve as the White House an­nounced the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice will is­sue tax re­funds be­gin­ning this month, de­spite 88 per­cent of the agency’s staff be­ing fur­loughed.

Fed­eral court­houses also have con­tin­ued op­er­at­ing through the shut­down as an es­sen­tial ser­vice. But money that has been pay­ing the court­house bills is ex­pected to run out as early as Fri­day, mean­ing staff would work with­out pay.

As of Thurs­day, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment par­tially had been shut down for 20 days. There is no end in sight as Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Demo­cratic lead­ers in Congress con­tinue to de­bate money for the pres­i­dent’s pro­posed bor­der wall.

That eco­nomic anx­i­ety is what drove fed­eral em­ploy­ees to Gra­ham’s Columbia of­fice, said Johnny Allen with Lo­cal 1915 of the Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Gov­ern­ment Em­ploy­ees.

“They need to put this aside, this sup­posed cri­sis, and stop us­ing fed­eral gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees as pawns,” Allen said.

Reached for com­ment, Gra­ham’s of­fice said the se­na­tor is com­mit­ted to end­ing the shut­down. But the Seneca Repub­li­can in­sists Democrats must agree to wall fund­ing.

By the end of the day, how­ever, Gra­ham had told Wash­ing­ton re­porters, “We’re stuck.”

TIM DO­MINICK tdo­[email protected]­tate.com

Gary Vo­tour, Johnny Allen and Tony How­ell protest Thurs­day out­side Lind­sey Gra­ham’s Columbia of­fice, want­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to re­open and give them their pay.

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