- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 30, 2018

D.C. officials say the city is prepared to pick up trash on federal land and process unemployment insurance claims for the duration of the federal government shutdown, but it’s uncertain whether the District will be reimbursed.

“Its an outstanding question whether we will recoup the funds,” said a staffer for D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Thursday evening.

What’s more, Smithsonian museums, art galleries and the National Zoo will start closing midweek if the partial shutdown drags on into the new year.

The District’s efforts and the potential closings are resulting from a standoff between President Trump and congressional Democrats over funding for a wall at the southern border. Mr. Trump has said he will keep the government partially shut down, and might close the border, if the funding is not provided.

Miss Bowser, a Democrat, has pledged to process the unemployment insurance claims of local federal workers as the 10-day-old shutdown is expected to extend into January.

The D.C. Department of Employment Services is “working overtime” to meet what two staffers, and a mayoral spokeswoman said there has already been an “uptick” in insurance claims.

“As we’re looking to an extended shut down the next pay period is where we’re going to see an uptick in claims,” said a Bowser staffer. “There’s rent, there’s bills, there [are] things they need to meet.”

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and the District’s nonvoting congressional representative, introduced legislation last week that would guarantee back pay for furloughed federal workers — including the contractors, retail, food, and custodial employees who work on Capitol Hill.

“Low-wage contract workers deserve the same back pay given to federal employees after a shutdown, as both federal employees and contract workers often work alongside one another,” Ms. Norton said Sunday. “Both groups of workers deserve to be made whole after any shutdown.”

What’s more, the mayor’s office has pledged to clean up 126 federal properties that are maintained by the National Park Service. Workers from the District’s Department of Public Work were given extra shifts and overtime to start collecting the trash this week, according the mayor’s office.

“It’s a health issue obviously for us,” said a mayoral staffer. “We can’t let trash build up on D.C. streets.”

Bowser spokeswoman LaToya Foster said there currently isn’t an estimate of how much the extra staffing costs.

On Wednesday, Miss Bowser wrote to Mr. Trump to “urge” him to work with Congress to end the shutdown: “Leadership is about stepping up and we will again step up to cover trash collection and any other needs on federally-owned parks and roads in Washington, DC.”

In the letter, the mayor noted that trash removal from federal areas will cost the city $46,000 a week.

Meanwhile, museums and galleries under the Smithsonian Institution umbrella will close starting Wednesday, the Smithsonian said on its website, The Associated Press reported.

That includes the zoo, as well as the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Museum of Natural History, and several galleries, including the National Portrait Gallery, with its paintings of former presidents.

Smithsonian facilities are open on Jan. 1.

The National Gallery of Art will close starting Thursday, a spokeswoman said. That includes the iconic West and East buildings, as well as an ice rink in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden that is a favorite with families.

National Gallery of Art facilities are usually closed on New Year’s Day, the AP reported.

• Julia Airey can be reached at jairey@washingtontimes.com.

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