APG-area residents, employees frustrated by shutdown, mad at Congress

Janice Drakeford, of Aberdeen, remembers the last time the federal government closed for business, in 1995.

She had a very young son, and "it affected me back then," she recalled as she walked into Aberdeen's Panera Bread on the morning of another government shutdown Tuesday.

A contractor with many clients at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Drakeford said her husband was told just 30 minutes earlier Tuesday that he was furloughed from his job at Fort Meade.

Like many residents and employees in the Route 40 corridor who rely on federal business from APG, Drakeford thought the shutdown could take a toll on the local economy.

"If you don't have a job, then you can't go out and get the essential things that you need – food, clothing or just coming in to get coffee," she said. "It will affect everybody in the community."

"A lot of people in this area are middle-class and live paycheck to paycheck," she continued. Her husband, she said, does not know what to do.

Panera, for one, did not seem to be losing any business right away, as plenty of people from APG poured in Tuesday morning for coffee, food, an Internet connection or a conversation.

Some, who did not want to be quoted, explained they had just been laid off and were not happy about it. "It sucks," one woman noted.

Many people wanted members of Congress to pay – literally. Drakeford was one of them.

"I am very upset because they are not going to be affected. They are still getting their salaries," she pointed out. "This won't affect them and their families... We have to watch who we put in Congress."

Wendy Reed, a Washington, D.C., resident who stopped by Panera on her way to a state government job in Philadelphia, had similar thoughts.

"I think it's foolish to fight a law that has been passed," she said of the stand-off over the Affordable Care Act. "Around where I am [in Philadelphia], it will have a big impact on everybody."

Jackie Miller said of Congress members: "Their aides, their salaries should be reduced. They shouldn't get benefits for life."

Miller, who lives partly in Aberdeen and has a permanent home in Smyrna, Del., was coming to Panera at about 10:30 a.m. after only being able to work four hours that morning at her job on APG.

"I am done for the day because we are not essential personnel," Miller said. "It's crazy... I would rather be working than not working."

About the situation, she said: "That is going to have a big impact on the economy, I think."

A bit south on Route 40, the parking lots at Water's Edge corporate center in Belcamp still seemed fairly full around major contractor companies like Booz Allen Hamilton, ManTech and SafeNet.

Employees were still arriving at the buildings Tuesday morning.

Kevin Rubink, of Fairfax, Va., was getting some work done at the nearby McShane's Deli and said the shutdown will definitely affect life for people.

An employee for a vendor that makes software, Rubink said he travels to Army posts throughout the region. He already heard from some people at APG who were not coming in Tuesday.

"It will definitely slow down the projects that are going on, the testing," he said. "It's very unfortunate."

"Obviously when the people that I am working for are not going to be able to get paid, that is a difficulty," he said. "I think it's definitely going to have a negative impact on people's incomes and their livelihood."

"It's just a lot of uncertainty on when, how long this is going to last. Obviously we know it's not going to last forever, but that's what people are worrying about," he said. "There's a lot of fear."

Rubink also suspected the government will not re-open in a day or two, now that Congress has completely shut down.

"I think minimum is going to be a month," he guessed.

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