Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

State Department Feeling Pinched

WASHINGTON -- In Moscow, the U.S. Embassy is offering interest-free loans to Russian employees to tide them over until their salaries can be paid. In Vietnam, the government has threatened to cut off electricity to the U.S. Embassy because the $1,600 bill hasn't been paid.


In Cuba, the trucker who hauls drinking water to the U.S. interests section has refused to make any more deliveries until paid.


Between 20,000 and 30,000 applications by foreigners for visas to go to America are going unprocessed each day, creating a huge backlog of paperwork and infuriating prospective visitors. And in America, more than 200,000 U.S. citizens are waiting for passports that cannot be issued.


Such is life in the State Department in the third week of a partial government shutdown that has cut off the department's money and blocked almost all non-emergency spending.


Senior officials Tuesday described a mounting sense of crisis as undone paperwork piles up, the backlog of unprocessed visa and passport applications grows, plans for travel are canceled and embassy officials scramble for funds to pay restive local employees.


"We just don't have any cash," Richard Moose, undersecretary of state for management, said. As long as suppliers and contractors are willing to extend credit for the few expenditures authorized, the State Department can get by, Moose said. But in the many parts of the world where it has to lay out cash as services are provided -- including several countries where security companies demand payment up front to provide guards -- the current mass inconvenience is about to become an emergency, Moose and other officials said.


Among those who have felt the shutdown are students who planned to start classes this month in foreign universities, vacationers who had firm travel plans and non-refundable tickets, and people with job offers from employers overseas.