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April 12, 2024

Looming federal shutdown would cause immediate impacts

Pinnacles National Park likely to close

Unless Congress passes legislation with a financial package to keep it running, the federal government will shut down beginning at 12:01am Sunday, Oct. 1. Federal workers were put on notice Sept. 27 that a shutdown is imminent and millions of government employees and military members could stop being paid.

How will that impact the Bay Area and surrounding region? Some changes will be immediate, and others will appear as ripple effects.

Right away, the national parks will close. That includes Pinnacles National Park in San Benito County. 

In the Bay Area, closures would include an array of landscapes and historic places within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, an 83,000-acre region with popular sites like Muir Woods National Monument, the Presidio and Alcatraz Island. Public access during a shutdown depends on whether the park can normally be locked.

“As a general rule, if a facility or area is locked or otherwise inaccessible during non-business hours, or is closed regularly for safety or resource protection, it will be locked for the duration of the lapse in appropriations,” said the U.S. Department of Interior, the agency that manages national parks.

Park areas that are physically open to the public, such as roads, lookouts, trails and campgrounds, will remain accessible, but staffing levels and services including restroom maintenance and emergency operations will vary and are not guaranteed.

CalFresh is an entitlement program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Along with Medicare and Social Security, SNAP “food stamp” benefits will continue, but there could be disruptions in administrative tasks.

According to a fact sheet published by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a non-profit organization that educates the public on fiscal policy, continuing resolutions have generally only authorized the Agriculture Department to send out food benefits for 30 days after a shutdown begins. The organization also warns of delays at airports.

“During the 2018-19 shutdown, air traffic controllers and Transportation Security administration (TSA) agents worked without pay. Many of them did not come to work, causing travelers to face long lines,” the organization said.

Ripple effects could be felt in places that are economically tied to federal spending, especially if the shutdown lasts for a while.

“Our topmost concern is Travis Air Force Base, it is a vital part of our community, employing a substantial civilian workforce who may face furloughs without pay,” said Bill Way, spokesman for the city of Fairfield, the community next to the major air cargo base. 

Travis Air Force Base employs over 9,000 military and more than 1,700 civilian civil service personnel, according to a base spokesperson. As a major cargo hub, it controls more than $15.8 billion in total resources, including 6,350 acres, 394 buildings and about 1,270 military family housing units. It also operates a military medical hospital that would face some of the same issues as the rest of the base if there is a shutdown. 

Way said if a shutdown lasts for an extended period, the city of Fairfield could see its effects trickling through the local economy.

“Everyone’s going to kind of tighten their purse strings and start not spending as much,” he said.

Organizers of San Francisco Fleet Week, the annual series of events that celebrate the nation’s armed forces and includes an air show with the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels, have not said how a shutdown would affect planned events, but many—including the Blue Angels show—were canceled in 2013 when the federal government had a previous extended shutdown.

Copyright © 2023 Bay City News, Inc.  

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