Shut­down’s im­pact felt in Calvert

Un­in­tended con­se­quences loom for non-feds and area bus ser­vice

The Calvert Recorder - - Front Page - By TA­MARA WARD [email protected]­news.com

Much is hang­ing in the bal­ance in South­ern Mary­land nearly two weeks into the par­tial fed­eral gov­ern­ment shut­down due to a lapse in fund­ing.

The wheels on the bus are still go­ing round and round, for now, ac­cord­ing to Keller Trans­porta­tion Gen­eral Man­ager Dave Richard­son.

Wal­dorf-based Keller is one of three bus com­pa­nies that op­er­ates com- muter bus ser­vice from Calvert, St. Mary’s and Charles coun­ties to Wash­ing­ton.

“Most of our cus­tomers are fed­eral em­ploy­ees, but we do trans­port other cus­tomers,” Richard­son said in an in­ter­view with The Calvert Recorder.

Keller has five routes that run 42 buses daily in Calvert, ser­vic­ing ap­prox­i­mately 2,100 cus­tomers.

“Dur­ing the shut­down

we are run­ning at about 25 per­cent,” Richard­son said, re­fer­ring to the rid­er­ship since the fed­eral gov­ern­ment par­tially closed its doors on Dec. 22.

The de­crease in rid­er­ship has not yet im­pacted Keller’s bot­tom line, as Mary­land Trans­porta­tion Au­thor­ity pays the bus com­pa­nies by the routes and not the riders. Keller has been run­ning all its routes to date.

“There will be reg­u­lar ser­vice un­til MTA tells us dif­fer­ently. If they de­cide to de­crease the num­ber of buses, rev­enue will be im­pacted,” Richard­son said.

Mary­land Tran­sit Au­thor­ity spokesman Paul Shep­ard said there were an av­er­age 22,044 monthly riders bring­ing in $220,445 in es­ti­mated com­muter rev­enue for Calvert routes into the District. For now, MTA is not go­ing to scale back its com­muter bus op­er­a­tions.

“Many gov­ern­ment and non-gov­ern­ment work­ers rely on com­muter bus ser­vice each day. No changes are planned to the com­muter bus sched­ule at this time,” Shep­ard said Jan. 2.

“I un­der­stand that, if they do. I’m sure my job will fully un­der­stand,” long­time Keller com­muter Ni­cole Ran­dall of St. Leonard said of a po­ten­tial de­crease in bus routes and her will­ing­ness to ad­just her com­muter sched­ule ac­cord­ingly. “I’m not think­ing about driv- ing.”

Ran­dall, who is not a fed­eral em­ployee, has taken the com­muter bus since 2001 to her job at a Wash­ing­ton law firm near McPher­son Square. She catches the 6:30 a.m. bus from the Prince Fred­er­ick lot on Fair­ground Road and no­ticed Wed­nes­day that she did not have to wait to board the bus.

“Nor­mally I have to stand 10 min­utes in line to get a de­cent seat,” Ran­dall said, but with fed­eral work­ers on fur­lough, “the com­mute was re­ally easy breezy — got down­town 20 min­utes ear­lier than nor­mal.”

Ran­dall’s easy com­mute may end soon, as talks on whether to re­sume full gov­ern­ment op­er­a­tions are ex­pected to re­sume this week.

An af­ter­noon brief­ing took place Wed­nes­day at the White House be­tween Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can lead­ers. House Mi­nor­ity Whip Steny Hoyer (DMd., 5th) was in the meet­ing, ac­cord­ing to his staff. Hoyer has more than 63,325 of the po­ten­tial 850,000 im­pacted fed­eral em­ploy­ees in his con­gres­sional district. Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell (R-Ky.), Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer (D-Md.), and House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) were also in­vited, as well as other party lead­ers. How­ever, the meet­ing yielded no ap­par­ent res­o­lu­tion.

This is not the first time the gov­ern­ment has shut down un­der the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion. On Jan. 20, 2018, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment was shut down due to a lapse in ap­pro­pri­a­tions. Fed­eral gov­ern­ment op­er­a­tions var­ied by agency, as some fed­eral func­tions have al­ter­na­tive fund­ing sources. Non-es­sen­tial em­ploy­ees at agen­cies without fund­ing were fur­loughed. The fund­ing lapse was due to the in­abil­ity of the U.S. Congress and Trump to agree on a bud­get bill to ap­pro­pri­ate funds for fis­cal 2018. The big­gest source of con­tention was the de­vel­op­ment of an agreed-upon so­lu­tion for the De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals, an immigration pro­gram im­ple­mented un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion to al­low im­mi­grants to have mi­grated into the coun­try il­le­gally as mi­nors to re­ceive a re­new­able pe­riod of de­por­ta­tion de­fer­ment. The shut­down ended Jan. 23, 2018.

The stale­mate this year is Trump’s re­quest for $5.6 bil­lion in fund­ing for a wall at the U.S. and Mex­ico bor­der. House Repub­li­cans did pass a con­tin­u­ing res­o­lu­tion in late De­cem­ber that in­cluded the pres­i­dent’s full fund­ing re­quest, but the Se­nate did not take up the bill.

“They are shut­ting down a large part of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment be­cause the Congress wouldn’t spend $5 bil­lion in tax­payer dol­lars on a bor­der wall that won’t make Amer­i­cans any safer. As a re­sult, the well-be­ing and se­cu­rity of the Amer­i­can peo­ple are at risk, with hun­dreds of thou­sands of fed­eral em­ploy­ees — in­clud­ing law en­force­ment, TSA screen­ers, For­est Ser­vice fire­fight­ers, food safety in­spec­tors, and oth­ers — fur­loughed or forced to work without pay,” Hoyer said in a press state­ment Dec. 22.

Hoyer cred­its the Democrats with do­ing ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to avoid the shut­down, to in­clude of­fer­ing mul­ti­ple com­pro­mises, which he said were re­jected by Trump and House Repub­li­cans. He co-spon­sored leg­is­la­tion with House Repub­li­cans to pro­tect fed­eral em­ploy­ees’ pay dur­ing a shut­down. He also did the same in Jan­uary 2018.

Since the shut­down, Hoyer has met with im­pacted con­stituents, to in­clude fed­eral em­ploy­ees and lo­cal busi­ness own­ers with fed­eral gov­ern­ment con­tracts. Dur­ing a closed Dec. 28 meet­ing in Green­belt, Hoyer re­port­edly promised to urge Repub­li­cans and Democrats to work to­gether to re­open the gov­ern­ment and said he co-spon­sored leg­is­la­tion to re- open the gov­ern­ment, but that the Repub­li­can House lead­er­ship has re­fused to bring it to the floor for a vote.

On Thurs­day, Democrats will have as­sumed con­trol of the House. It was un­clear as of press time if un­der the new lead­er­ship Congress would work in a bi­par­ti­san fash­ion to pass a bud­get and re­open the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

Fed­eral em­ploy­ees will feel the first fi­nan­cial im­pact of the par­tial shut­down in their Jan. 11 pay­check.

Naval Air Sta­tion Patux­ent River and South­ern Mary­land Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Outpa­tient Clinic were spared from the shut­down. The bud­gets for the U.S. De­part­ment of De­fense and U.S. De­part­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs were al­ready ap­proved for the cur­rent fis­cal year, al­low­ing agency pro­grams to con­tinue. Funds have been se­cured through pre­vi­ously signed bills for about 75 per­cent of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. Agen­cies that are af­fected in­clude the de­part­ments of Jus­tice, Home­land Se­cu­rity, Trans­porta­tion, Agri­cul­ture, Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment and the In­te­rior. NASA, the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice and the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion were also af­fected.

The Recorder was un­suc­cess­ful in get­ting a Calvert fed­eral em­ployee to speak on the record by press dead­line due to non-dis­clo­sure agree­ments.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

A Keller Trans­porta­tion bus sits in a lot. Full com­muter bus ser­vice con­tin­ues from South­ern Mary­land into Wash­ing­ton de­spite the nearly two-week fed­eral gov­ern­ment shut­down that be­gan Dec. 22.

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