Government Shutdown Could Stall Long Island Sandy Recovery

Congressional Republican leaders’ government shutdown Tuesday stemming from their refusal to fund the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, could threaten—among many other things—Long Island’s recovery from Superstorm Sandy, officials said.

At risk is the Fire Island to Montauk Point storm mitigation plan, a $700-million project a half-century in the works to rebuild dunes on the barrier island and raise thousands of flood-prone South Shore LI homes. The project, stalled for decades by funding concerns, was finally slated to begin this winter with Sandy aid backing.

“The District could experience some impacts to staffing in general that could potentially lead to impacts to ongoing work depending on how long the partial shutdown continues, regardless of the work’s funding status,” said Chris Gardner, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the agency leading the effort.

He added that in the meantime, plans are moving ahead on the project, known as FIMP, which is already funded through supplemental funds, and is not subject to the direct impacts of the lapsed federal budget.

“Work on FIMP and other previously funded projects and studies should continue moving forward through the current partial government shutdown,” Gardner added.

LI federal workers furloughed for the shutdown include IRS employees, nearly all of the 218 “dual status” technicians at the 106th Rescue Wing at Gabreski Air Base in Westhampton and National Park Service rangers at Sagamore Hill and the Fire Island National Seashore.

Open for business were the U.S. Postal Service, U.S. District Court in Central Islip, federal law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service field office in Holtsville and Calverton National Cemetery, which is funded through Oct. 15. Social Security is open to handle urgent issues such as appeals, but applications for a social security number and to replace a social security card will not be processed.

Scores of New Yorkers signed up at the state’s health benefit exchange, both the online insurance plan marketplace and at offices in Hauppauge and beyond LI, despite the government shutdown.

President Barack Obama pleaded with congressional leaders, namely Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) who rallied Republicans to block the funding, to negotiate a settlement to the stalemate before the shutdown went into effect at midnight Tuesday. LI lawmakers were equally frustrated, including Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), who tried to rally moderate Republicans in the House of Representatives to resolve the shutdown before the deadline on Monday.

“My GOP colleagues should not demand a ransom for simply fulfilling their responsibilities,” Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton). “That is not negotiating or governing in good faith.”