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Fish Hatchery Closed

The National Fish Hatchery in Orangeburg is closed due the partial federal government shutdown. Four of its seven employees are on furlough status.

The National Fish Hatchery in Orangeburg is closed to the public, with a locked gate barring entry onto its premises as the partial federal government shutdown continues.

The shutdown has prompted the hatchery, which is overseen by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to enact a shutdown contingency plan.

"We have seven employees," said Kurt Eversman, the hatchery's project leader. "At this time, four employees are in furlough status and three including me are in 'excepted' status, working intermittently to fulfill our responsibilities for raising and taking care of the fish we are raising here at the hatchery."

"This is the only work taking place during the lapse in appropriations," Eversman said.

The federally supported fish hatchery says its mission is to, “protect and enhance endangered and recreational fish species and their habitats.”

The facility occupies approximately 250 acres in Orangeburg County. It is one of two federally supported hatcheries in the state.

The hatchery has two units here. The main station is located on Lakeview Drive just outside the city limits while a substation is on Cannon Bridge Road south of Orangeburg.

It is part of a network of more than 70 federal fish hatcheries located across the country.

For other federal agencies and groups depending on them in Orangeburg, it is largely business as usual.

S.C. Department of Social Services spokesperson Marilyn M. Matheus said there will be no impact on services or benefits through February.

To protect SNAP participants’ access for February, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is working with states to issue February benefits earlier than usual.

Food stamp recipients will still receive food stamps through the month. Other programs focused on child nutrition, including school lunch and breakfast programs, will continue operating into March.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children has prior year funding which the USDA will begin to distribute to the state this week in order to provide February benefits.

Hours and staffing will remain unchanged at the Orangeburg DSS during the shutdown.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are also not affected by the shutdown, meaning Medicare and Medicaid benefits will remain in place.

That’s because Congress has already passed five of its major appropriations bills, funding about three-fourths of the federal government, including the Department of Health and Human Services. This funding is in place until September.

Social Security operations will not be affected because, “we received our full FY 2019 appropriation on Sept. 28, 2018," U.S. Social Security Administration spokesman Frank Viera said in a prepared statement.

"Social Security services and offices will remain fully operational, and Social Security benefits will be paid on time,” he said.

Orangeburg County Veterans Affairs Officer Kenisha Grimes said the shutdown has also not impacted any veterans’ services or benefits.

The U.S. Congress approved funding for veterans’ services in September of 2018. Veterans’ benefits are funded through September 2019.

Office hours and staff will not be reduced no matter how long the shutdown lasts, Grimes said.

"The government shutdown will not affect us no matter how long the shutdown runs," she said. "I am funded by the county."

While the office may remain open and provide services, veterans’ benefits are federally funded and could be in jeopardy if the shutdown lasts past September.

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Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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Staff Writer

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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