According to reports, despite U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) backing off at the last minute from plans to furlough thousands of employees nationwide, the agency is going ahead with furloughs of at least 800 private contractors in the Kansas City area, specifically those who work for a contractor that provides services at the National Benefit Center (NBC) in Missouri. USCIS once again blamed a drop in revenue that began in March, although separately the agency had previously said it had enough to cover its expenses in the short term.

Furloughs of these agency contractors are expected to have a similar effect as furloughs of agency staff, precipitating backlogs and delays along with exacerbating potential economic effects on the local area of the lost jobs and if processing for foreign workers employed by technology and health care companies slows more than it already has.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), along with several other lawmakers, sent a letter to USCIS Deputy Director Joseph Edlow, noting that NBC has approximately 1,300 contract employees between its Missouri and Kansas facilities, and that overall USCIS has 3,100 contract and federal employees in the region. “Employees at the NBC conduct pre-processing steps, run background checks, and prepare applications for interviews at field offices around the country,” the letter noted. Rep. Cleaver said that as he understands it, “there is plenty of work to be done to eliminate the backlogs at field offices and Congress has shown willingness to work with the agency to ensure its fiscal stability, so we want to know exactly how they came to this conclusion, what other options were on the table, and what can be done to immediately remedy the situation.”

Although USCIS dropped plans to furlough employees in the short term, it did warn in August that spending cuts would “drastically impact agency contracts,” affect “all agency operations, including naturalizations,” and “increase backlogs and wait times across the board.”

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