Shutdown impacts region; federal employees, others feel the pain
It is not business as usual in the Upper Delaware Valley as impacts from the shutdown of the federal government are felt. Active employees of the National Park Service (NPS) unit that serves the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River have been cut back to just five who will patrol the river and perform other limited services while politicians in Washington DC try to figure out a way to get the full federal government going again.
All of the websites of the National Park Service and many other federal departments are shut down, and on October 1, Kathleen Sandt, the public relations specialist with the Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area, issued a statement. It said, “As of noon (October 1), the park will be CLOSED. No recreational activities will be permitted during the shutdown. All facilities including trails, buildings, the river corridor and all access points, picnic areas, beaches, and partner-operated facilities (such as PEEC, Peters Valley Craft Center and Mohican Outdoor Center) will be closed. The whole park is CLOSED. Millbrook Days, scheduled for October 5 and 6, is cancelled.”
She added, “Law enforcement rangers are exempted from the furlough and will focus on protection of life and property during the shutdown. Our 24-hour emergency communications center will continue to operate during the shutdown.”
Like everyone else, NPS has no idea how long the shutdown will be in effect, but the reality of it is reflected on the websites of elected politicians.
A message on the website of New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand says, “Unfortunately, due to the recent temporary lapse in government funding, my Senate office has been shut down. What this means: Our offices are not staffed and phones will not be answered; emails sent to individual staff members will be responded to at the conclusion of the shutdown. Letters and emails addressed to my office will be responded to at the conclusion of the shutdown; With the closing of all federal offices, our constituent services team will not be able to work on any cases for you during this time, but will continue with your case after the shutdown. I will continue to work with my Senate colleagues to resolve the funding issues. The current situation cannot stand and New Yorkers should not be asked to endure this funding lapse for any period of time.”
On the website of PA Senator Bob Casey, a “fact sheet” explains who could be harmed by a shutdown. It said the shutdown could delay financial support for Pennsylvania’s small businesses through the Small Business Administration, which in 2012 received more than 1,000 applications for funds from small businesses each week. Casey also says that, while existing Social Security payments will not be impacted, enrollment of new beneficiaries may be. It says, “Although checks for current Social Security benefits would still go out during a shutdown, applications for new benefits would be delayed and services for seniors could be significantly curtailed. As a result of furloughs and service cuts during the last shutdown, 112,000 claims for Social Security and disability benefits were not taken, 212,000 applications for Social Security numbers were not taken, and 800,000 callers were denied service on the Social Security Administration’s 800 number.”
Among the programs that would be halted with the most significant impact on local residents would be the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which provides federal grants for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.
In the meantime, partisan divisions over the Affordable Healthcare Act, which are largely responsible for the shutdown, appear no closer to being resolved than when the wave of Tea Party candidates were swept into office in response to the act in 2010.