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Shutdown hits FEMA

Profile image for By Megan Gray
By Megan Gray

Lack of funding leads to furloughs at agency headquarters in Denton

Employees at the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Region 6 headquarters in Denton are feeling the effects of the federal government shutdown, officials said.

According to the Denton Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Board’s fall 2012 public major employers chart, FEMA’s Denton headquarters employs between 600 and 1,000 staff members.

Officials with the agency said they don’t have an exact number of how many people are impacted at the Denton office, but of FEMA’s roughly 4,300 permanent employees funded by lapsed congressional appropriations, 86 percent were furloughed nationwide.

Since Oct. 1, the federal government has experienced its first shutdown in nearly two decades. While votes have been passed to provide funds for some pay periods, some government workers are still on the job and not being paid at all.

“Based on applicable legal requirements and consistent with its contingency plan, FEMA did recall certain furloughed employees necessary to serve functions of the agency that protect the immediate safety of life and property in preparation for the potential impact of Tropical Storm Karen and other extreme weather,” Dan Watson, spokesman for FEMA, stated in an e-mail Friday afternoon.

Watson said that while the majority of the employees recalled to assist in the Tropical Storm Karen efforts are now being re-furloughed, the employees can be called back at any time should another disaster occur.

The agency, officials said, has three levels of employment: the regular day-to day operations personnel who are furloughed; the staff needed for security and other important personnel who are working without pay but continue reporting to work; and the limited staff who work on protection of life and property. The latter staff members are paid through the agency’s Disaster Relief Fund and will continue to work with pay, FEMA said.

“Ongoing response operations to recent as well as any future disasters will continue because this work is funded by the Disaster Relief Fund, which did not lapse with other appropriations on Sept. 30, 2013,” Watson stated.

Officials said the agency is committed to providing relief for disasters and disaster survivors, including housing assistance for existing or newly declared disasters in the immediate term.

Watson said the future is uncertain, and work on previously approved and ongoing long-term recovery projects will, in many cases, be delayed because a significant number of the employees required to process and manage the funding of those projects remain on furlough.

FEMA has suspended the review and approval of new and pending disaster recovery projects, as well as most other work by the agency.

Right now, officials said that only tasks that involve an immediate threat to safety and property are being done.

MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.