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Elected officials say they are monitoring phones despite the high number of furloughed staff.
Saturday, October 12, 2013
The shutdown has even made complaining more difficult.
While the partial government closure endures, some Virginians are having trouble getting through to their congressional representative, the very person who can do something about the situation.
But congressional offices are working around their own complications from the shutdown, including some furloughed staff.
Sen. Mark Warner’s office has posted a notice on its website to help people navigate during the shutdown. It includes a resource for people with emergencies who need help contacting a federal agency and a form to send comments about the government shutdown.
A spokesman for Warner said the office voicemail is being monitored and the most experienced case worker was kept on to help people who are having emergencies that require dealing with the federal bureaucracy.
State offices have been shut down, however, and Warner’s Capitol Hill staff has been reduced to five from 30 people.
In Sen. Tim Kaine’s office, where 37 of its 42 staff members are furloughed, no one is answering the phones, but constituents can send an email through the office website. Response time is delayed, but on-duty staff is periodically reading emails and responding to emergency cases.
There’s also a phone number on the website for people with emergency matters. A Kaine spokeswoman said the office has closed out at least one emergency matter during the shutdown.
Kaine’s district offices are also closed, but they have one staffer in Richmond to handle emergency casework.
Phones were being answered in House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s Richmond office on Friday, and a spokeswoman said they have been in the district and on Capitol Hill.
“The Congressman’s constituent offices in the district and Washington are open and have been answering phone calls and responding to letters and emails as quickly as possible during the shutdown,” said Megan Whittemore, a spokeswoman for Cantor, R-Henrico County.
“Congressman Cantor is working hard to re-open critical parts of the government and provide relief to people being impacted.”
Cantor’s office has furloughed staff and continues to reassess its needs, but despite limited staff, the office says it has placed a priority on constituent services, answering phones and responding to constituent correspondence.
Rep. Robert “Bobby” Scott, D-Newport News, brought back all staff initially furloughed since the House approved the Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act, a measure to pay furloughed federal workers. He also reopened his district offices in Newport News and Richmond, according to a spokesman.
“The congressman continues to receive messages from his constituents about how the ongoing government shutdown is impacting their lives through phone calls, emails, Facebook and Twitter,” said David Dailey, a Scott spokesman.
“Our entire staff is available to answer questions, take messages and assist our constituents, who are having more challenges with the federal government because of the shutdown.”
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