The U.S. government's first shutdown in 17 years rippled across Illinois on Tuesday, forcing unpaid furloughs of thousands of civilian military workers and hundreds of others responsible for maintaining key stretches of the nation's inland shipping system.
About 1,300 Illinois National Guard employees also are off the job, as are dozens of state employees. Campers at federally maintained sites across the state were being asked to take down their tents and head out, and visitors to the former home of the state's beloved Abraham Lincoln were turned away.
Some 3,500 civilian employees - about two-thirds of the non-military staff at 13,000-worker Scott Air Force Base - reported for work but were later sent home after completing paperwork to wait out the federal shutdown. The remaining civilian employees at the base, which is east of St. Louis and the region's biggest employer, were exempt.
Air Force Col. Kyle Kremer, commander of the base's primary air wing, said some flight operations at Scott will be curtailed, including those transporting senior government and military leaders. But operations deemed essential won't be affected, he said.
At the Great Lakes Naval Training Station north of Chicago, some 2,500 civilian workers also were sent home indefinitely Tuesday, said Senior Chief Abigail Lehtinen, spokeswoman for the site that is the Navy's only boot camp in the U.S. At least for now, the work of those affected has been turned over to the remaining 300 civilian employees deemed "essential" and the site's roughly 5,000 active-duty staffers, she said.
"If this (shutdown) extends, it absolutely puts a strain on everything," Lehtinen said.
The Illinois National Guard also could be forced to curtail some weekend guard duty in addition to the furloughs, said Mike Crisman, a guard spokesman and state employee who was the only person left Tuesday in the Springfield public affairs office. Active-duty training - generally light this time of year - will continue as planned if already scheduled, he said.
"Obviously the last 24 hours it's been crazy with media calls. I'm running solo," Crisman said. "It's crazy, but I'm thankful I've got a job and I'm not going home."
On Tuesday, the state sent layoff notices to 53 employees of its Department of Military Affairs and to 20 staffers of the Illinois Department of Employment Security, with those furloughs taking effect Wednesday and lasting at least a week, said Abdon Pallasch, the state's assistant budget director.