PAGE – Visitors read a sign on the main entrance door at the Carl Hayden Visitor Center Thursday afternoon, and then either took a picture of the sign or took a family photo in front of the sign informing them the center was closed due to the partial government shutdown.
The shutdown is now entering its second week and some federal employees affected by this are facing uncertainty as they return to work after the Christmas holiday. About 420,000 people who are considered essential are working unpaid and about 380,000 are on furlough at the start of the new year.
A number of departments and agencies are funded through September by way of previously passed appropriations bills. Departments and agencies that funding expired are the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department, the State Department, the Interior Department, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, among a list of other federal agencies.
The shutdown though didn’t quite affect the city of Page as businesses and services to recreation areas and tourist attractions, such as the U.S. Postal Service, Page Municipal Airport, Page Public Safety, and the Glen Canyon Recreation Area are all open and unaffected. Checks for Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare will be paid as well. But new applications for benefits will not be processed until the shutdown ends.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture office, which oversees the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children has seen its staff cut by 95 percent, according to the agency.
The USDA website early Monday morning read, “Due to a lapse in federal funding, this USDA website will not be actively updated. Once funding has been re-established, online operations will continue.”
Though individuals can still expect their SNAP benefits, aka food stamps, this month but will likely be unable to receive any assistances from representatives. Those who rely on WIC or food distribution programs on the Native American nations may have difficulty, according to USDA.
The Glen Canyon NRA will remain open during the shutdown, but search and rescue services will be limited. There will be no National Park Service-provided visitor services, nor visitor centers, restrooms, facilities, nor road maintenance.
While Glen Canyon NRA remains open, the Glen Canyon Conservancy has furloughed about 20 of its employees who work in facilities located on federal land which are closed, said Martin Stamat, director of the Glen Canyon Conservancy.
Unlike some federal employees who will receive back pay after the government re-opens, the GCC workers will not since they’re not a federal contractor. ll of their stores are closed, except their flagship store on Lake Powell Blvd.
“I hope the federal government gets this figured out soon because this is having a big affect across the country as agencies and facilities remain closed,” said Stamat.
Stamat added that the government shutdown is negatively affecting travelers visit to the area.
“Yes, they can still enter the parks, but many of the personnel who could give them interp, and advice won’t be there,”
said Stamat. “They’re missing out on a big component of their visit to our area, and that’s too bad.
Mayor Levi Tappan did not respond to an email seeking comment on how the shutdown impacts the city of Page.
The federal government officially entered a partial shutdown just three days before Christmas. This happened after the House and the Senate failed to come to agreement on President Donald Trump’s $5 billion wall along the southwestern border.
Trump and Democratic leaders openly disputed about the wall in a live televised meeting Dec. 11, during which Trump said he would be “proud to shut down the government for border security because the people don’t want criminals and people that have lots of problems and drugs pouring into our country.”
Trump told Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) he’d take the mantle.
“I will be the one to shut it down,” Trump told Schumer and Pelosi, both who made it clear they don’t support his demand for $5 billion in border-wall funding. “I’m not going to blame you for it.”
Trump sparked fervent chants at rallies – before and after his election – where his supporters shouted, “Build the wall!” as he promised an impenetrable, physical, tall and beautiful wall with Mexico. Not a fence.
It seemed possible the day after Christmas that Trump would sign a bill that didn’t exactly fund the wall and find money for it instead. That idea however dissolved the next day as a result of conservative Republican pressures.
Schumer said Democrats in Congress don’t want to include more than $1.6 billion on border security in a year-end spending deal, which put them at odds with Republicans who are floating a plan to spend $5 billion to fund the wall over two years.
But the Trump administration has yet to spend “a penny” of the $1.3 billion Congress appropriated for physical border security for fiscal 2018, which ended at the end of September, according to Schumer.
With time looming before a new Congress is sworn in, Trump refused to budge in his demand for money, narrowing prospects for an increasingly damaging government shutdown to end when the legislature convenes.
Trump issued an executive order Friday freezing federal workers’ pay this year, following through on a proposal he announced in early 2018. The military would not be affected, as well as his and federal lawmakers’ paychecks.
Congress generally votes to pay federal employees retroactively after shutdowns. The Senate passed a 1.9 percent increase for the workers, but the House did not act. The new Congress though could vote to give those employees a raise.
Trump over the weekend blamed Democrats for the deaths of two migrant children in U.S. custody at the southwestern border, wielding the episodes as justification to fund the wall, saying any deaths of children or other individuals at the border are strictly the fault of Democrats.
“… and their pathetic immigration policies that allow people to make the long trek thinking they can enter our country illegally,” Trump tweeted. “They can’t. If we had a wall, they wouldn’t even try!”