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Article updated: 10/1/2013 7:39 AM

Shutdown to furlough nearly 2,500 at Great Lakes

Naval Station Great Lakes would furlough most of its about 2,500 civilian employees in the event the federal government shuts down.

Naval Station Great Lakes would furlough most of its about 2,500 civilian employees in the event the federal government shuts down.

 

Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

O’Hare and Midway airports will continue operating if the federal government shuts down.

O'Hare and Midway airports will continue operating if the federal government shuts down.

 

Mark Black | Staff Photographer

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A congressional stalemate in Washington is set to leave thousands of suburban federal workers unpaid beginning Tuesday, including nearly 2,500 civilian employees at Naval Station Great Lakes.

Most of the nonmilitary workers who work at the Navy base's museum, library, barracks and public information offices, among other places, won't be paid under a government shutdown, said spokesman John Sheppard.

"It would be very safe to say things would slow down quite a bit," Sheppard said of the North Chicago-area base.

Staff also could be reduced at Illinois National Guard armories in Aurora, Elgin, Joliet and Woodstock.

At Great Lakes, some safety-related workers like police will stay on the job, as will military personnel, Sheppard said. But most social workers will be among those furloughed, Sheppard said.

"Counseling services would be limited," he said.

Suburban residents are in the process of figuring out what a government shutdown means to them as Congress continues a stalemate over a temporary spending plan. The full effect might not become clear until a shutdown continues for days, if that happens.

If deemed nonessential, federal workers will get notice to go home under a government shutdown. That would include some Illinois National Guard workers at armories around the suburbs.

"It will certainly degrade what we can accomplish," said spokesman Capt. Dustin Cammack.

Most workers at Fermilab near Batavia will be kept on the job in the short-term, officials said. The U.S. Department of Energy is expected to close its own lab on the premises, but Fermilab has money to keep the other 1,700 workers on the job for as long as a month, a document from U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin's office says.

O'Hare International and Midway airports will keep operating in a shutdown. The Federal Aviation Administration said the nation's airports will continue operating with "essential employees" who won't be affected by a shutdown.

"In the event of a lapse in funding, the FAA has prepared a contingency plan in which air traffic controllers, some safety inspectors and other essential employees will continue working in order to maintain the safety of the national airspace system," a statement from the agency says.

Amtrak trains also will continue operating, spokesmen said.

But people waiting on passport approval might face delays, as might people waiting on federal loan approval to buy a house.

Social Security payments will arrive as usual and mail will be delivered because the U.S. Postal Service operates on its own budget.

Suburban lawmakers have split over the shutdown, with Republican U.S. Reps. Peter Roskam of Wheaton and Randy Hultgren of Winfield backing a plan to further fund the government and delay a key part of President Barack Obama's health care plan by a year.

"The president himself has implemented a one-year delay in the law's requirement for big businesses to provide insurance and a one-year delay in the law's privacy and anti-fraud provisions," Roskam, part of the House Republican leadership team, said in a statement over the weekend. "It is only fair we extend this same relief to ordinary Americans."

The Illinois rollout of new health care exchanges set to open Tuesday as part of Obama's law will begin as scheduled.

Democratic U.S. Reps. Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates, Bill Foster of Naperville, Brad Schneider of Deerfield and Jan Schakowsky of Evanston favor a vote on just the budget without Obama's health law attached.

"These are two different things," Duckworth said. "One's the nations's budget. One's the Affordable Care Act."

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