Shutdown has no effect on federal agency in Lee’s Summit

tporter@lsjournal.comOctober 7, 2013 

  • 2,200

    Estimated number of employees that will be employed by the United States Department of Homeland Security’s United States Citizenship and Immigration Services division after 300 new jobs are filled at the National Benefits Center in Lee’s Summit. The National Benefits Center and the National Records Center, also in Lee’s Summit, were not affected by the partial federal government shutdown in effect since Oct. 1.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services department, a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, operates two agencies in Lee’s Summit that remain open for business despite a partial federal government shutdown.

The National Records Center (150 N.W. Space Center Loop) and the National Benefits Center, both operated by the USCIS, were spared a shutdown because of its status as a fee-based agency of the federal government.

The fees collected by the agency for immigration services cover nearly 95 percent of the USCIS’s annual budget, according to spokeswoman Maria Elena-Upson.

Because of an impasse in the United States Congress, several federal agencies were shut down Oct. 1 and workers were subsequently furloughed.

“There is no shutdown in terms of the USCIS,” Elena-Upson said when contacted Oct. 1. “We are fee-funded, which means our salaries come from the applications fees. Everything is business as usual for us.”

Elena-Upson said as a fee-based agency, USCIS will continue to accept and process applications and petitions. However, the agency expects delays in processing, as some support staff may be furloughed and USCIS depends on non-essential agencies for services.

For example, E-Verify, a federally funded program that checks whether employees are authorized to work in the U.S., is in the dark until funding is restored.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, “citizens and U.S. businesses will not be able to access E-Verify, the Internet based system that allows employers to voluntarily determine the eligibility of prospective employees to work in the United States.”

Late last year, the USCIS announced that 300 new jobs would arrive at the National Benefits Center, 950 N.W. Chipman Road, Suite 5000, making the Department of Homeland Security the largest employer in Lee’s Summit with close to 2,200 employees.

USCIS officials wouldn’t go on record Oct. 1 with the number of those jobs that have been filled over the last 11 months, but did say a majority of them had been claimed and that they continue to advertise the other openings.

With 2,175 employees, the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District was previously the largest employer in the city according to statistics provided by the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council’s 2012 annual report.

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