With federal government shutdown, city workers try for business as usual

Land under the purview of the National Park Service, including the National Mall, was closed Monday on the first day of the government shutdown. Erica Christian | Contributing Photo Editor
Land under the purview of the National Park Service, including the National Mall, was closed Monday on the first day of the government shutdown. Erica Christian | Contributing Photo Editor
Though the government shutdown will affect thousands of federal employees and many tourists’ sightseeing plans, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray has declared all D.C. government employees essential.

Gray spoke at Tuesday’s D.C. Council meeting in support of emergency legislation that would keep the District’s 32,000 employees from being furloughed. The Council unanimously passed the largely ceremonial legislation in what Gray called “a seminal moment” for the District.

That would save D.C. employees from becoming part of the more than 2 million federal workers who will see their paychecks delayed, and 800,000 who could not get repaid.

The District will pay its employees from its $144 million contingency fund, which could last through Oct. 13.

Despite the federal government being closed, trash is still being collected like usual, licenses will be issued and the Metropolitan Police Department will still patrol the streets. Washington Metro Area Transit Authority, which is not a federal agency, remains open in addition to the D.C. Circulator bus system.

“It is ridiculous that a city of 632,000 people – a city where we have balanced our budget for 18 consecutive years and have a rainy-day fund of well over a billion dollars – cannot spend its residents’ own local tax dollars to provide them the services they’ve paid for without Congressional approval,” Gray wrote in a letter to the Office of Management and Budget last week.

That doesn’t mean GW students have been untouched. Students with paid and unpaid internships in government offices, from the Smithsonian Institution to the Peace Corps, were told to stay home. Federal research grants to teaching colleges are expected to slow.

Mayor Gray is not the only person to defy the shutdown. Four busloads of World War II veterans stormed the closed memorial Tuesday, knocking over barricades to get a closer look. The National Mall, Smithsonian museums and bike paths will be closed until the government reopens.

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