Many businesses and individuals tied to national parks have suffered because of the government shutdown, including this group of river runners sit near the Colorado River in Arizona.
For the first time in 17 years, the powers-that-be in Washington, D.C. have shuttered most non-essential services of the federal government. The ostensible rationale behind the shutdown is that House Republicans demand that the White House dump, or at least delay, the Obamacare package passed in 2010 that would provide low-cost health insurance to about 30 million Americans.
In other words: “Nice federal gov’ment ya got there. Shame if anything happened to it.”
By press time, no resolution was in sight. Some of the most tea-party-ish of the conservatives in Congress welcomed the shutdown, while most Republicans said it was a shame but it was President Obama’s fault for refusing to rescind, defund or delay the Affordable Care Act.
Around Southern Nevada, news of the federal shutdown centered on the closure of Lake Mead, managed by the National Park Service, and Red Rock Canyon, managed by the Bureau of Land Management. According to the Park Service, a half-million visitors usually travel to Lake Mead in October. Last weekend, boat owners hauled their watercraft on Las Vegas Boulevard, through the Strip, to demonstrate their unhappiness with the shutdown.
In one twist, about 60 homeowners with property along Lake Mead were notified by the Park Service that they had to pick up their essential belongings and get out. The families own the homes but they pay rent for the land, which belongs to the federal government, in a decades-old effort to encourage tourism. Now those families are in the same boat as visitors to the federal lands: they have to find another place to live and play.
The impact is hammering some local businesses.
Izzy Collett, owner of Desert Adentures, said she has already laid off the 30 employees working at her outfitting company, which provides mountain bike, hiking, canoeing and kayaking adventures, mostly on federal land.
“Ninety-five percent of our business is within the national parks,” Collett said. “We are completely out of operation right now… No one is working. I have nothing for them to do.
“If this doesn’t end within the next few days, the next week, we may go out of business,” she said. “It is heartbreaking to say the least… We’re just one of many.”
The cash-strapped Clark County School District says almost two-thirds of its 318,000 students qualify for free or subsidized meals paid for by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. With the shutdown, the school district is scrambling to cover the $9 million monthly cost of the program.
Local officials hope that once (or if) the shutdown ends, the school district will be reimbursed. Participants in federally supported nutrition programs for families, young people, pregnant women and new mothers also face cuts. Gov. Brian Sandoval said more than 390,000 food stamp recipients and 70,000 to 80,000 recipients of Women, Infants and Children nutritional support could lose benefits by the end of October.
On the other end of the age spectrum, seniors could soon see program cuts.
Jeffrey Klein, president of Nevada Senior Services, a Las Vegas-based nonprofit, said a huge array of services for seniors, especially low-income seniors, is threatened by the shutdown.
“It hasn’t fully hit yet, but we’re getting close to the edge,” he said. Funds that were in the pipeline before the shutdown on Oct. 1 will continue. But in a matter of weeks, those funds will dry up. In our facility alone, we’re feeding 100 seniors a day two meals, breakfast and lunch.”
Many of the non-profit agencies that receive various forms of federal funding for medical programs, adult day care, nutritional support including meals-on-wheels and other services have very small cash reserves. Unlike the school district, those programs could come to a sudden and complete stop, Klein explained.
“We would start seeing the closing of services and after that the closing of agencies… What we’re talking about here is people not eating, not getting home support, not getting their medications. It’s a huge issue, a mission critical issue, for us.” CL