Day five of the partial shutdown of the federal government fell on Boxing Day; a holiday for those in the Virgin Islands serving in the local government. At one federal building on St. Thomas the lights were on, the doors were open, but signs of life were scarce.
A dispute between President Donald Trump and members of Congress led to a decision to furlough about a million government workers, across the United States and its territories. Under the furlough some workers don’t report for work. Others show up for work but don’t know when they’ll be paid.
The first workers on duty met by a reporter at St. Thomas’s federal courthouse the day after Christmas were uniformed security officers. One, Darren Foy, said he was not a federal employee but worked for a company providing security under contract. The officer made no comment when asked when he expected to see a paycheck.
On a normal day, visitors to the federal building on St. Thomas would see maintenance workers mopping floors and pushing utility carts. On Wednesday, no cleaning crews were in sight. An unattended garden hose snaked out through the double doors of the entrance across the plaza — a sign that some maintenance work was taking place.
Upkeep, repair and maintenance of the De Lugo Building takes place under the direction of the General Services Administration. But no one on duty could say if the GSA office was open.
The lobby to the U.S. Attorney’s Office was dark, but lit up when electronic censors detected someone walking to the receptionist’s window. A woman appeared and said they were open but no one was there.
Wednesday’s visit was followed up by a phone call to the U.S. Attorney’s Office Thursday. A woman answered the phone and said she’d pass a request for information along to an agency spokesman.
The call never came. A hint as to why came though the next federal agency in the building.
An office worker at Customs and Border Protection on St. Thomas sent an inquiry through to Public Information Officer Jeffrey Quinones in Puerto Rico.
Quinones wasn’t there when a caller looked him up on Day Six of the partial shutdown. A CPB employee who identified himself as Anthony said he had just learned the spokesman was sent home.
“Like some of the furloughed individuals, we found out today,” Anthony said, adding that he was not an official spokesperson and should be referred to as a citizen.
A quick stop at the field collection office of the Internal Revenue Service showed no signs of life. The doors were shut and the lights were off. A knock on the unlabelled door of the U.S. Marshal Service produced no answer.
There was one clerk behind a desk in U.S. District Court. The one person who could officially speak about the partial government shutdown was not there, she said.