Shut Out and Shutdown
By Alex Distefano
We are now entering the second week of a partial Federal Government shutdown, which has no apparent end in sight. The last Federal Government shutdown was 17 years ago, under President Clinton. This time around, the political stalemate is behind the shutdown. On Oct. 1, the Democrats and Republicans in Congress could not come to any sort of compromise, and failed to reach agreement to fund federal agencies, shutting down all non-essential agencies and services. The political quarrel that led to this shutdown stems from a disagreement over President Obama’s health care initiative, the Affordable Care Act, known colloquially as Obamacare.
But, what exactly does this Federal shutdown mean, and more importantly how will it affect residents of the Inland Empire? It is estimated that the shutdown has affected almost 800,000 workers in various Federal Government agencies, which include NASA, The National Weather Service and The Departments of Education and Interior.
Since our elected officials in the Federal Government have not reached an agreement yet, the country has no money to pay for non-essential government services, including National Parks and other government agencies such as the EPA and Small Business Administration, among others. However, the U.S. Postal Service is not affected by the shutdown, and all Federal courts will operate for another week, before things become uncertain, depending on how long the shutdown lasts.
Local leaders in the IE were not hesitant to voice their opinions on the shutdown and its implications on economy, Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside) was most blunt when he said the ordeal was a ‘fiasco.’ He told the local news organization Patch that the shutdown has the potential to impact services that families rely on in the IE and all over the country.
Takano, whose “Takano’s District” also includes Perris and Moreno Valley, said that the resolution, which would end the shutdown and provide funding for government operations, is being used as a “bargaining chip that the ‘Tea Party wing of the Republican Party’ in an attempt to sideline Obama Care.”
Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Palm Desert) also was stern in his opposition to the shutdown and the inability to come to a compromise. “It’s time for Republicans and Democrats to work together to pass a bipartisan bill that ensures our recovering economy continues to grow, that our troops in combat continue to receive pay, and that our veterans and seniors continue to receive critical benefits they earned. I stand ready to work with my colleagues in both political parties toward that end,” he told Patch.
Local reports in the Press Enterprise show a clear impact in the Inland Empire, specifically relating to the Small Business Administration. Last week, the IE was to host two public forums on economic issues, which were canceled, since the experts and speakers included members of the federal agency.
The shutdown also has clear implications at a local level. Unfortunately, the San Bernardino National Forest’s public facilities including visitor centers are closed.
The U.S. Forest Service is closed, aside from essential services such as firefighters and law enforcement personnel in case of emergency or natural disasters. On Oct. 1, when the shutdown went into effect, the U.S. Forest Service, including the San Bernardino National Forest was ordered to close down all non essential services, according to Patch.
Despite this—according to Felisa Cardona, a Spokesperson for the County—San Bernardino has yet to see any drastic changes or negative consequences from this shutdown.
Cardona said that at this point, San Bernardino has not been in touch with neighboring counties in the Inland Empire regarding the shutdown. “We haven’t had contact because we haven’t had any county essential services affected yet,” she said. “Because of this, it is hard to quantify the impact to the region.”
Cardona told the Weekly that there was no way of telling when this will end, and if it goes on long enough more aspects of our government will be affected. “A federal shutdown can’t go on indefinitely without impacting all government,” she told the Weekly. “But for now, San Bernardino County, as a government, hasn’t had any significant impact that we can measure.”