WASHINGTON, D.C. — For a lot of Americans, talk of a “government shutdown” came across as something of a storytelling device.

It wasn’t supposed to actually happen. It was supposed to be something that will happen unless a cranky central character overcomes his inner-curmudgeon and develops something akin to empathy.

But in today’s dysfunctional Washington, empathy hardly plays a decisive role. So barring a last-minute resolution of the politician-manufactured shutdown showdown, large swaths of America will get scrooged — and Hawaii will feel that pain on many levels.

According to information released by Sen. Mazie Hirono on Friday, a shutdown could delay the processing of new Social Security and veteran’s benefit applications.

Nearly half of the 18,937 civilian employees who work for the Department of Defense in Hawaii would be furloughed, while the rest would work but not get paid until after the end of the shutdown.

Another 60,856 service members would remain on duty but also wouldn’t be paid if the shutdown lasts more than 10 days. About 25,000 federal employees in Hawaii could be furloughed if their work is deemed non-essential.

The International Associations of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Local 1998 represents some of the federal workers who are waiting to find out whether or not they will be affected by a shutdown. In fact, they have already been furloughed for six days this year.

“There’s concern, a lot of concern,” said Robert Lillis, president of Machinists Union Local 1998. “If there’s no deal, they’ll be watching Monday Night football wondering, come Tuesday, ‘Will I have a job? How long am I going to be out for?”

Lillis ticked off some coping strategies. “You cut back, don’t go to dinner, buy cheaper food.”

There’s not much else they can do, he explained. “What other jobs are out there? It’s an employers market. Good paying jobs are hard to find right now. You kind of put up with it.”

Beyond the current potential shutdown, civilian defense workers could face additional furloughs next year or even lose their jobs altogether due to the effects of expanding sequestration cuts, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told a crowd in South Carolina in July.

Similar uncertainties extend beyond defense workers to a wide range of federally funded programs. Federal grants to a broad range of Hawaii state agencies, for everything from law enforcement to environmental cleanup to education, could face cuts if sequestration is left in place.

Take law enforcement. Julie Ebato, administrator of the state Attorney’s General’s Crime Prevention & Justice Assistance Division, told Civil Beat that federal grants the department receives are slated to be reduced by 4 percent per year for the next decade if sequestration remains in place.

That’s going to mean cuts to the $2 million that the Attorney General receives to help counties pay for victims assistance services. Another $1 million that goes to police departments and the courts to prevent violence against women — including domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking — could also face the ax. And there will be additional cuts to grants that support things like drug treatment for people being released from state prisons.

It’s tough on workers, said Lillis.

For employees who still await word about whether they’ll be able to return to work, the uncertainty is wearing them down.

Lance Kamada, who is the union liaison for AFL-CIO Community Services, a joint venture between labor and the United Way, sees the impact. He runs a make-shift food pantry in his office in Honolulu.

In a filing cabinet in his office there are cans of food. “We serve vegetables, pork and beans, chili,” he said. “We try to provide a balanced meal, and not so much processed meats, but we don’t have a refrigerator.”

The furloughed workers don’t talk much when they stop by. They’re grateful for the food, he said. But they’re solemn.

“They’ve pretty much worked their whole lives. They’re proud. You know how local people are, ‘No. No. I’m OK. Help someone else.’”

Except now, they’re forced to come ask for help.

And Lillis said the origin of their hardship doesn’t help.

“It’s more frustrating because this is a man-made crisis,” Lillis said. “The parties can’t get along so the workers suffer through no fault of their own.”

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