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Baltimore metro leaders urge end to federal shutdown

Republican Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, (center), Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski Jr. and Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, Democrats, call for an end to the federal shutdown at a news conference in Annapolis Wednesday. (Bryan P. Sears)

Republican Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, (center), Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski Jr. and Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, Democrats, call for an end to the federal shutdown at a news conference in Annapolis Wednesday. (Bryan P. Sears)

ANNAPOLIS — The leaders of five Baltimore metropolitan jurisdictions are calling for an end to a month-long partial federal government shutdown.

The leaders of Baltimore City, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Harford and Howard counties said they are concerned about the effects of a continued federal lockout on their residents. The executives also said they expect local government budgets to be stretched as they look for ways to provide emergency services.

“We have tens of thousands of federal workers and folks who work for contractors for the federal government, and they’re not getting paid,” said Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman. “Our businesses are not getting revenues they would have gotten had they been getting paid. The thing that concerns me most are the people at bottom end of the economic scale.”

Pittman said calls to the county for emergency services, including rent and utility services, have increased sharply in the weeks following the start of the partial shutdown that began at the end of December.

The longest-running federal government shutdown — at 33 days as of Wednesday — began as part of a budget standoff amid a $5.7 billion request by President Donald Trump to build a wall on the southern border of the country. Construction of the wall is a campaign promise made by the president.

“This is impacting the lives of people, and we ask our president to take notice of what he’s doing to people around this nation,” said Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh, a Democrat. “A wall is something he wants. Obviously, it’s not something that the nation is in tune with.”

The executives said residents won’t be able to pay for basic necessities, including rent and mortgages, food, utilities and medical care — all of which will likely strain county resources.

Additionally, services such as food stamps and federal housing vouchers will run out by the end of February.

Many jurisdictions are already granting reprieves on water bills and other fees, offering food from food pantries to furloughed federal workers and calling on mortgage companies and credit rating agencies to be more lenient with affected workers.

Trump and Republican supporters have sought to blame congressional Democrats, saying they’ve offered a compromise to end the shutdown that would provide a temporary solution for hundreds of thousands of immigrants in the Deferred Action on Arrival program as well as for some of those whose protected status was about to be revoked. Democrats have rejected the offer.

Maryland has a higher-than-average dependence on federal government jobs and contracts because of its proximity to Washington and the large number of agencies, research facilities and government contractors in the suburbs outside the capital.

“No one wants to live under these kinds of conditions,” said Pugh, a Democrat. “We’re asking the federal government … to end this shutdown.”

As many as 174,000 Marylanders are directly affected by the partial shutdown, according to an estimate from the Office of the Comptroller. Those workers lost nearly $800 million in wages in the first two weeks. Friday marks the second payday of the shutdown and another potential $800 million in lost wages.

Howard County officials estimate the shutdown affects one in 10 families in that jurisdiction.

While federal employees would likely receive back pay when a budget deal is reached and the government re-opens, contract employees are likely to not receive back wages.

Comptroller Peter Franchot Wednesday also urged an end to the shutdown, calling the the president’s actions “a publicity stunt.”

“Some of us are lucky enough to be able to ride through something like this, but a lot of people aren’t,” said Franchot. “And why are we doing this? Let’s face it, there isn’t going to be a wall built. There never was going to be a wall built.”

 

 


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