CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Despite bringing back a significant number of its furloughed employees Tuesday, things are not back to normal for the West Virginia National Guard.
“We are degrading readiness every day that they don’t pass a full-blown budget,” said state Adjutant General Major General James Hoyer.
In Week 2 of a partial federal government shutdown, the National Guard has been able to call back roughly 996 of 1,150 employees who were furloughed last week. That is partly due to efforts by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and from state lawmakers, both in the Senate and the House of Delegates, who sent two letters containing more than 100 signatures to Congress.
Around 75 employees are still furloughed and Hoyer said that is still too many.
“These people rely on that money for college payments, for car payments and for house payments,” he said. “We have got to fix this.”
That fix did not come Tuesday from Washington as the standoff between Republican leaders in the U.S. House and Democrats in the U.S. Senate and the White House continued. During separate news conferences, House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama stood their ground in the debate.
Boehner claimed the president said he would not talk with them unless “there is unconditional surrender by Republicans.” Boehner argued that is not how government works.
Obama however, accused Republicans of threatening to cause a recession if the administration didn’t agree to defund Obamacare. He said he would only negotiate once Republicans “lift these threats” and pass a clean funding bill.
Meanwhile, during a news conference Tuesday in Charleston, Hoyer pointed out several areas where the Guard is still being adversely impacted by the shutdown even though they have called back many of their employees.
Those areas included small things such as not being able to make medical ID cards for employees because there was no federal funds to pay for more material and the cancellation of a motorcycle safety course.
A larger impact deals with the Guard being unable to receive new helicopters Oct. 1 to replace aging ones that are used for counter drug support and state active duty.
“The first helicopter is still sitting at the depot because we can’t go pick it up,” Hoyer said. “There were three pilots that were suppose to go to training to get proficient on that aircraft that we can’t send to school.”
Guard members are also unable to receive their flu shots because the Guard doesn’t have the federal funds to pay for the contracted service. Hoyer said the impact is also felt in the local community.
“We don’t have the ability to pay some of our contractors and vendors who are finishing construction projects here,” he said.
Thanks to the governor’s office, Hoyer has been given the flexibility to reallocate funds from other projects to be used to float salaries and keep Guard members working for the time being, at least until Oct. 16.
“The Guard in West Virginia will overcome obstacles and will make things happen to take care of our people in this state, but we shouldn’t have to operate this way,” said Hoyer.