Thousands furloughed in New Mexico after government shutdown

POSTED: 09:02 PM MDT Oct 01, 2013    UPDATED: 01:16 PM MST Jan 16, 2014 
LAS CRUCES, N.M. -

Thousands of government employees in New Mexico received furlough notices on Tuesday because of the government shut down.

Many government employees were glued to their television sets last night, watching to see if Congress would reach a last-minute deal.

Instead, thousands went into work just to be sent home.

"I think (Congress) should get their stuff together. They're paid a lot of money and we voted for these people to come to an agreement like that. It's up to them now," said Jeff Dee, a fire engine captain for the Bureau of Land Management in Las Cruces.

Dee has worked for the BLM for 20 years. This is the first time he's ever been furloughed.

"I'm worried about my house payment. I have dogs. I have grandchildren and children. I save my money and prepare for things like this and it is going to be an impact," Dee told ABC-7.

BLM employes 817 people in New Mexico; 754 were furloughed.

Popular BLM tourist sites like Dripping Springs and Aguirre Springs are closed.

Donna Hummel, a spokeswoman for BLM in New Mexico, said most activities on BLM land are suspended.

"When you combine all of us that are on federal furlough, the parks service, the forest service, the BLM and all the others, it really is a huge economic impact. We do hope we will see our appropriations settled in Washington and all of us will get back to work in short order, hopefully," Hummel told ABC-7.

At White Sands Missile Range, around 2700 civilian employees were furloughed.

Another 500 were furloughed at the NASA Johnson Space Center.

Employees will go without pay until Congress approves a spending bill. It's hard to predict how long that will take.

"Many of us have mortgages. Many of us have kids at school or in colleges. Many of us just have our day-to-day bills. It's never easy to go without a paycheck," Hummel said.

Until the shutdown is over, employees said they'll cut back on spending and wait.

"The government is the government. There's really nothing in my power I can do but vote," Dee said.

A bare-bones staff will stay on at most federal agencies to keep them running.

Employees who were furloughed hope Congress makes a decision soon.