Shutdown Means A Road Less Traveled for Furloughed Workers
As the federal government shutdown stretches into its fourth day with no resolution in sight, cities are already starting to feel the impacts on transportation infrastructure. If Congress cannot come to an agreement quickly, city residents will be increasingly affected by the loss of federal transportation dollars, and the lack of federal personnel on the job will negatively impact local economic activity. In addition to their infrastructure, cities are also feeling the impacts of the shutdown on their coffers. In many cities, the most immediate impact is the loss of income for federal employees and contractors. In the Washington, DC area, many local elected officials are furloughed from their day jobs with the federal government. It’s uncertain if they will be paid retroactively once the government is back up and running. For many furloughed workers, this lack of income means difficulty paying utilities, mortgages or rents, and of course it means less spending at local businesses. Just as local economies are recovering from the economic downturn, this hit to 800,000 furloughed federal employees across the country is a major hit to the economy. For western Ohio for example, the closure of Wright Patterson Air Force Base means 8,700 employees furloughed at an estimated economic loss of $5 million dollars to the communities in lost wages and lack of spending at local businesses. Is Anybody There? Local governments and city residents are feeling the impact of the lack of federal workers on the job. In cities with Army Corps projects for example, the shutdown is delaying the completion of projects that are already underway. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) staff are still working, courtesy of the federal fuel tax and Highway Trust Fund. Most staff of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has been furloughed though, with the exception of those working on Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts. For local governments, this means there will be no FTA personnel to work on new grant applications or to answer questions or help solve problems. Air traffic controllers will stay on the job but 15,514 FAA employees will be furloughed and not available to local airport operators. Among the furloughed employees are aviation safety inspectors, which could result in grounded planes as inspections become due. While transportation infrastructure may not be impacted as heavily as other critical services, the longer the shutdown continues, the more the impacts on our cities’ infrastructure will continue to mount. Much of the nation’s infrastructure is already in need of repair, there is no need for Congress to make the situation worse by continuing the shutdown because of a manufactured crisis. Please let your Representatives know why a shutdown is bad national policy and bad for our country. Go to www.nlc.org/shutdown and get the information you need to call, write or tweet your concern, and urge Congress to support a clean continuing resolution for fiscal year 2014. City leaders continue to govern and so should Congress. About the Author: Leslie Wollack is NLC's Program Director for Infrastructure and Sustainability. Through Federal Advocacy, she lobbies on behalf of cities around transportation, finance, infrastructure and community development. Follow Leslie on Twitter at @lawollack.