Despite the partial federal shutdown since Saturday, agencies under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security in Puerto Rico are operating normally.
In contrast, agencies such as the Department of Agriculture and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), among others, have been affected by lack of funds.
Yesterday, the executive director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA), Carlos Mercader, offered an updated picture of the impact of the shutdown on the island and said that the scenario varies depending on each agency, and that it is mostly related to the number of "essential employees" they have.
"Each agency determines who is an essential employee. The largest number of essential employees is in the Department of Homeland Security and, therefore, is the least affected. But that does not mean that other agencies do not have essential employees," he said.
Mercader said that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Federal Prosecutor's Office, the Postal Service and the Coast Guard are operating normally. Regarding the Coast Guard, he indicated that it is not fully financed, but even so, employees remain on duty and they would be receive their pay check if Congress passed legislation to allow retroactive payment.
As for the federal Department of Agriculture, he recalled that Secretary Sonny Perdue warned that starting today or tomorrow, between 90 percent and 95 percent of the agency employees could be sent home.
"If you go to the agency's website, there is a message warning that content will “not be current or maintained". That is another impact, people will not have access to up-to-date information," said Mercader.
"Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits will continue to be paid, but new applications will not be processed until the end of the 'shutdown'," he added.
According to Mercader, students who receive scholarships or loans through the federal Department of Education may also experience a delay because "that agency is not operating."
Meanwhile, offices dealing with immigration issues "are partially operating", and some services - which he did not specify - are not being offered.
He recalled that the Puerto Rican government reached an agreement with the National Park Service - for a two-week period - to keep the San Cristobal and San Felipe del Morro castles open, and informed that they are working with the U.S. Forest Service on a similar agreement for El Yunque National Forest.
Mercader asked people to contact federal agencies via e-mail, if they have questions about the services.
On the other hand, the Secretary of State of Puerto Rico, Luis G. Rivera Marín, said that passport offices are operating normally.
Passport offices in Ponce, Arecibo and Plaza Las Américas will operate regular hours, from 8:00 a.m. at 4:30 p.m. until tomorrow, Rivera Marín said. The Plaza Las Américas office will also open on Saturday, from 8:00 a.m. at 3:00 p.m.
Fajardo's office is in recess, declared by the municipal government.
In addition, next week, the offices of Plaza Las Américas, Ponce and Fajardo will be open. The Arecibo office will be closed due to the end-of-the-year recess, he explained.
Rivera Marín said that the office of the Minillas Government Center operates normally, as it is under the umbrella of the federal Department of State.
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