CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The continuing federal government shutdown is having a great impact on the West Virginia National Guard.
Major General James Hoyer, adjutant general of the West Virginia National Guard, had to send over a thousand full-time National Guard employees home Tuesday after the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives failed to reach a budget deal to avoid a government shutdown.
“We would have been, starting the fiscal year October 1, at 2,339 full-time employees,” he said Tuesday during a press conference. “I had to send 1,150 of those employees home.”
On top of sending almost half of their employees home without pay, the National Guard is also forced to cut back on training.
“We’re not going to be doing normal training. We won’t have the ability to do our, what we call our IDT individual training that may occur during the weekends or during the week,” said Hoyer. “We are not going to be able to do our annual training which tends to be collective training where the units come together and train.”
However, before Monday’s midnight deadline lawmakers in Washington did manage to pass legislation that was suppose to allow for the military to be funded through a shutdown. But Hoyer said that is not the case with the National Guard.
“The way H.R. 3210 is being interpreted right now on the guidance we’re being given at this point it is not taking care of the National Guard in West Virginia or across the country,” he said.
That is mostly because the National Guard has five different categories of pay and the bill doesn’t include all of them, according to Hoyer.
And more furloughs could be in the near future depending on how long the shutdown lasts. There are 389 military authority employees in the state who receive some level of federal reimbursement and if the shutdown lasts for more than seven days, there jobs will be in jeopardy as well.
Hoyer said those positions, which include 30 firefighters at the 130th Airlift Wing in Charleston and 35 firefighters in Martinsburg, are viewed as being more vital for daily operations and for that reason state money is going to be used to pay those salaries for the moment. The hope is the state will be reimbursed after Congress resolves the budget issues and the government shutdown is over.
The 30 firefighters in Charleston provide fire and rescue services for Yeager Airport and Hoyer said if the shutdown lasts longer than seven days, there could be more serious consequences.
“In order to keep them on right now we’re having to take state dollars and float their salary in order to continue to keep them on status because that not only impacts the 167th Airlift Wing, it would shut down Yeager Airport,” he said.
The state would spend $227,000 to float the salaries of the military authority employees for seven days. Hoyer said they can only afford to float the salaries for so long.
Hoyer hopes lawmakers will be able to agree on a funding bill this week so they won’t have to make further tough decisions. He said the fact that he can’t do anything to prevent his National Guard members from being sent home is eating him up inside.