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Federal workers in Las Vegas feel effects of government shutdown

Many federal employees in Las Vegas are feeling the pain of the partial government shutdown, as they continue to work without pay.

Julia Peters, a Transportation Security Administration officer, is among the essential government workers required to continue to work without pay.

Since the shutdown, she has tried to cut down on driving, canceled her DirecTV service and applied for assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Peters said.

“I’m 51 years old, and I’m getting food stamps,” she said.

The shutdown is starting to strain the national aviation system, with unpaid security screeners staying home, air-traffic controllers suing the government and safety inspectors off the job.

Miami International, the nation’s 25th-busiest airport, plans to close off Concourse G at 1 p.m. for the next three days and shift a dozen flights a day to other terminals.

“Our wait times have been normal and operations have been smooth so far, but the partial closure is being done in an abundance of caution,” airport spokesman Greg Chin said Friday.

Other major airports surveyed by The Associated Press said they had no immediate plans to close terminals or take other drastic measures.

More than 3,000 federal workers in Nevada will see their paychecks affected as a result of the shutdown, according to a statement issued Friday by U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen. She and U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto met with several Nevada federal workers — including Peters and other TSA and National Park Service staff — on Friday morning to learn how they were being affected by the shutdown.

Peters’s co-worker and fellow TSA officer, Ellen Jackson, 59, said she is driving full-time for a ride-share company to make ends meet during the shutdown.

“I don’t want to borrow any money,” said Jackson, an Air Force veteran who said she makes about $38,000 annually. “I don’t want to get into a deeper hole.”

Maintenance and custodial employees at the federal courthouse in Nevada were also among the 800,000 employees nationally who worked without pay Friday.

A man who said he works for the Social Security Administration at the Lloyd George U.S. Courthouse has not experienced cuts to his pay under the department’s contingency plan set forth in September, but maintenance employees in the building have complained to him about working for free. Maintenance, custodial and other property management work in the building is carried out by the General Services Administration, or GSA.

“They’re upset. I would be upset,” said the worker, who gave only his first name, Jeff, on Friday. “You work and don’t get paid? Yeah, they’re upset about it.”

Other courthouse employees, including security and federal court workers, were not affected.

“Judiciary employees are reporting to work and currently are in full-pay status,” U.S. Courts wrote in a statement on Monday. The federal judiciary has enough money from court fees and other funds to pay its employees through Jan. 18.

Chief District Judge Gloria Navarro wrote in an order last month that the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada “has a constitutional duty to continue to hear and resolve cases, even during a period of government shutdown.”

To perform that duty, judges rely on their personal staff and court employees to perform functions necessary for the continued resolution of cases, Navarro wrote in the Dec. 22 order, which appears on the court’s website. All staff, officers and employees of the court were ordered to report to work during their normally scheduled hours until further notice.

Security guards at the Lloyd George U.S. Courthouse, the Foley Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse were also unaffected, because they work under private contracts, they said.

One downtown Las Vegas restaurant, however, has seen business wane since the shutdown.

A waiter at La Comida, a Mexican restaurant at 100 S. Sixth St., said Friday that the regular lunch crowd has thinned over the last two weeks. Many tables were empty about 1 p.m. Friday. About 30 people sat inside and on the restaurant’s patio.

“It’s just affecting this business because we don’t see the regulars we used to have for lunch,” Cesar Gutierrez said Friday afternoon.

Court and government office employees normally make up about 60 percent of the restaurant’s lunch customers, Gutierrez said. He has noticed fewer patrons dressed in suits and attributes the lull in lunchtime business to the shutdown.

“It’s just not the same people,” he said. “The numbers are coming down. It’s not the way it used to be. … It’s hurting us. I bet the neighbors are getting hurt, too.”

Contact Kimber Laux at klaux@reviewjournal.com. Follow @lauxkimber on Twitter. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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