R.I. federal offices close, workers furloughed under shutdown
NAVAL STATION NEWPORT sent 800 civilian employees home Tuesday, joining other federal offices in Rhode Island in compliance with the government shutdown that began at midnight following a congressional stalemate over the budget.
PROVIDENCE – Many federal offices across Rhode Island were shuttered Tuesday and hundreds of “nonessential” employees sent home due the U.S. government shutdown that began at midnight.
At Naval Station Newport, 800 civilian employees were furloughed after Congress failed to pass a bill funding ongoing government operations.
Military personnel at the base remain on duty, but the shutdown affected civilian non-emergency or life-support operations at every command except the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, according to a release from the base’s public affairs team before they went home at 11 a.m. The Naval War College Museum was closed, along with the base commissary and “Pass and ID office.”
In Providence, Roger Williams National Memorial, run by the National Park Service, was closed “for the duration of the government shutdown” according to a phone recording.
Rhode Island wildlife refuges run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service -- including Sachuest Point in Middletown, Ninigret in Charlestown, Trustom Pond in South Kingstown and Pettaquamscutt Cove in Narragansett -- were also closed.
Despite the shutdown, many federal government operations continued, including air traffic control, law enforcement and security for federal facilities.
U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island was open Tuesday, but it is unclear how long it will remain operating without an agreement to restore federal funding.
U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha said between one-third and half of his office’s 45 employees have been sent home. The determination of who would work during the shutdown was made based on who had pending business in court and who was working on an active investigation.
“As long as the court is open, cases we have must proceed,” Neronha said. “Civil cases may not proceed, but the public should know if there are cases that are critical, we are going to keep those investigations going. Certainly there is an impact on getting work done and how fast you can move.”
The Federal Building on Westminster Street in Providence was open Tuesday, as many social security employees remained to get checks out, process new applications for benefits or make changes to a beneficiary’s status.
The Department of Veteran’s Affairs was also open.
The Internal Revenue Service’s Rhode Island office, also in Providence’s Federal Building, was closed.
In Narragansett, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s office on Tarzwell Drive was closed.