Published On: Mon, Oct 14th, 2013

The federal shutdown and its effects

By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.

ONE FEATHER STAFF

 

The federal government has been shut down since midnight on Tuesday, Oct. 1.

Congressman Mark Meadows (R-NC) who serves western North Carolina said in a statement following the shutdown, “I am willing to do whatever it takes to find a solution that reopens the federal government and protects the hardworking families in western North Carolina from the harmful consequences of Obamacare.  It is time for the Senate to join the House at the negotiating table and start working on behalf of the American people.”

Rep. Meadows requested to have his pay withheld during the shutdown.  He is keeping his Hendersonville and Washington, DC offices open during the duration of the shutdown.

The effects are being felt in various ways throughout Cherokee.

According to Julie Maney, EBCI WIC program manager, the program discontinued issuing benefits at the close of business on Tuesday, Oct. 8, but it was up and running again on Friday, Oct. 11.  She said no EBCI WIC employees were affected or furloughed during that period.

The Cherokee Central Schools, a BIE school, is really not being affected according to Superintendent Dr. Scott Penland.  “At this point, we are experiencing very little impact from the federal government shutdown. We have received 80 percent of our federal dollars already and would be able to operate thru March 2014 with this amount. We have been informed that some of the monitoring visits from BIE will be postponed or canceled because of the furloughs at BIE. Education would certainly be deemed ‘essential’, and I expect to get the other 20 percent of our funding sometime in December.”

One of the largest federal government installations near Cherokee is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  In all, 279 Park employees are on furlough along with 60 concessions employees and another 45 employees of the Great Smoky Mountains Association.  Park officials related that 47 employees are on duty performing security services and emergency services as needed.

Newfound Gap Road remains open, as does the Gatlinburg Bypass, but all other trails, roads, visitor centers, campgrounds and picnic spots are closed.

The impact is being felt in 18 North Carolina and Tennessee counties within a 60-mile radius of the Park according to Steve Morse, director of WCU’s Hospitality and Tourism Program.  He did an analysis of the economic impact of the Park closure and estimates more than $33 million in lost visitor spending in the first 10 days of the shutdown.

“Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the United States, and October is one of the busiest months in terms of park visitation,” Morse said in a statement on Friday, Oct. 11.  “Every day that the Park is closed means that 36,912 visitors are not visiting the Park and are not spending money in the local economy.”

He estimates that since the shutdown, North Carolina counties within 60 miles of the Park have lost close to $10 million in visitor spending.

In a statement on Oct. 2, Rep. Meadows supported keeping all National Parks open as well as arranging for funding measures for the VA.  “In a continued act of partisan stalemating, a majority of Democrats voted yesterday (Oct. 1) against funding for veterans services and national parks.  The veterans who have sacrificed for our nation cannot be abandoned due to Washington dysfunction, especially since the House and Senate already voted to ensure pay for active military is not interrupted.  Our national parks serve as economic lifelines for many areas of the country, including the 11th District, and need to be open to the public.”

The shutdown is being felt for local businesses as well.

“The shutdown is killing Cherokee Fudge and More,” said Mark Brooks, the store’s owner who spoke to the paper on a Wednesday afternoon.  “It’s almost 2pm, and I have gross sales of $52.83.  These pretty October days should be between $500-$700.  It has been a struggle the last 4-5 years to pay the bills and lease with the economy.  This may be the fatal shot.  I lost a lot in spring due to the road closure for the slide and now this.”

NCAI is concerned about the government shutdown on all of Indian Country.  “The federal government has made treaty commitments to our people, and in return we ceded the vast lands that make up the United States.  The immediate shutdown crisis poses very real threats to tribal governments and denies health, nutrition, and other basic services to the most vulnerable tribal citizens.”

“As Washington faces the threefold crisis of the shutdown, sequester, and debt limit, we call on the Congress to reach a long-term budget deal that meets the nation’s obligations to tribal nations and Native peoples.  It is time to address the ongoing fiscal crisis caused by the sequester.”

Sen. Heidi Keitkamp (D-ND) shared NCAI’s concerns as she spoke on the Senate floor on Oct. 11.  “The government shutdown has left North Dakota’s Indian tribes in a state of emergency.  The United States has treaty obligations to the Indian tribes in this country.  And, this shutdown poses a threat to the basic services the federal government provides to Native Americans as part of its trust responsibility to tribal nations.”

She commented that the BIA law enforcement division on the 252,000 acre Spirit Lake Nation reservation is now limited to one officer per shift.

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