The entrance of the The Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area west of Las Vegas as seen on Thursday, Oct. 10,2012. The popular site has been closed because of federal budget impasse. (Jeff Scheid/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Victoria Duke and her 7-month-old baby Dominique attend a “Strategies for Success” class at The Shade Tree shelter earlier this year. The partial federal government shutdown has forced the shelter to cut some services, employees and intake times.
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval said nearly 400,000 Nevadans who receive federal-backed programs such as food stamps and nutritional assistance for women, children and infants may see those programs end Nov. 1. He also said Nevada will not fund the opening of national parks such as Red Rock and Lake Mead during the shutdown.
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, left, D-Nev., pauses as Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013 in Washington. The federal government remains partially shut down and faces a first-ever default between Oct. 17 and the end of the month.
America Held Hostage: Week Three.
As of press time this week, there were ongoing talks but no solution to the federal government shutdown. Much of the attention focused on what was happening nationally, as tea-party-friendly White House seekers engaged in various publicity events. In Washington, D.C., Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who called for the government shutdown that he says is President Barack Obama’s fault, rallied with a Confederate flag and half-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin at the World War II memorial.
Cruz shared his microphone with a man who ordered President Obama to take his hand of the Quran, the Islamic holy book. So you know, black Muslim atheist gay Kenyan president, etc.
Meanwhile, those affected by the government shutdown in Las Vegas weren’t so much worried about the Quran as they were their jobs and income. The reverberations of the closure of federal lands, including the Lake Mead National Recreation Area and the Red Rock Canyon Nation Conservation Area, continue, with federal employees furloughed indefinitely, private contractors sidelined and laying off employees, and secondary businesses such as boat shops hit hard.
Adding insult to injury, while some states have financed the reopening of some national parks, such as Zion National Park in Utah and the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, Gov. Brian Sandoval said the cash-strapped Silver State will not follow suit.
The shutdown has also seen federally funded projects at the Desert Research Institute come to a halt, with 25 principal investigators and 47 support staff impacted by stop-work orders. One of those cuts is the Community Environmental Monitoring Program, which monitors radiation around the former Nevada Test Site.
On the other hand, if you happen to own a big petrochemical or mining company, 96 percent of those pesky Environmental Protection Agency employees are furloughed, so they’ll never be a better time for that “accidental” spill of toxic sludge into the Colorado River. Apparently bacteria can read too, because salmonella picked a great time to reproduce in factory-farmed chicken last week, when government food inspectors were off work.
According to non-furloughed government experts, people should avoid eating raw chicken from Foster Farms. To be on the safe side, CityLife encourages its readers to avoid eating raw chicken from any source.
The impacts go a long way past outdoor tourism, chemicals and bacteria. Some of the biggest victims of the shutdown are, or soon will be, among the most vulnerable among us.
Sandoval warned last week that “catastrophic” cuts would come at the end of the month for food stamps and for nutritional assistance for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). A half-million Nevadans could lose nutritional assistance, and children will be among those losing the most.
And women and children who are victims, literally, of domestic battering also will lose help. That’s a particular concern in Nevada, which historically has led the nation in the rate of women killed by their partners. In three of the last four years, Nevada ranked first in the nation for women killed by men, according to data compiled by the Violence Policy Center. (This year, the center reported that Nevada’s rate for women killed by men dropped all the way to No. 16, but with an average of 1.48 deaths per 100,000 women, the Silver State is still far higher than the national average of 1.17 deaths.)
Many centers that help women and families escape violence depend on funding dispersed through the federal Office on Violence Against Women, which was created during the Clinton administration to fight domestic violence.
One of the Las Vegas Valley’s critical service providers is scaling back operations because of lost funding from the federal government shutdown. Shade Tree Women and Children’s Shelter has lost $25,000 monthly in funds originating from federal programs, and will cut health and shelter services - along with staff - immediately, the nonprofit reported last week.
The Shade Tree is the only 24-hour, full-service shelter in Nevada providing housing, nutritional and medical support to about 350 women and children, many of whom are the victims of domestic violence, daily.
Marlene Richter, the Shade Tree director, said six staff members will be laid off immediately and more than 50 remaining staff will have a 10 percent furlough immediately.
As of midnight Saturday morning, 24-hour intake for new clients will be eliminated, unless an individual or family is accompanied by a police officer; Shade Tree will accept new intakes at 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily.
Snacks for women and children will be cut in half, and one of four women’s health clinics, where OB-GYN, cancer screening and other women’s medical services are provided, will be eliminated. Richter said doctors usually see more than a dozen patients during a typical clinic.
Richter said the Shade Tree depends on various grants and funding sources, and is juggling sources to keep some critical missions operating. If only federally funded employees had been laid off, all shelter and kitchen staff would have been eliminated.
Shade Tree and other service providers already have struggled with the long, difficult economic downturn. Richter said that between 2011 and 2012, Shade Tree saw a 50 percent increase in the number of clients coming through the shelter, from 4,000 to 6,000 women and children.
Richter said service impacts from the federal shutdown, which started with a congressional impasse Oct. 1, will only worsen as long as it continues.
“Of course the next thing - this is not just happening at the Shade Tree, but it is and will be happening to the community that we serve,” she said. Families could face loss of hours at work, loss of child care, lost nutritional or medical benefits as the shutdown continues, and those families may turn to the Shade Tree as a lifeline. CL