Shutdown’s impact felt in Calvert
Unintended consequences loom for non-feds and area bus service
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.
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.