As the government moves into the fourth week of an unprecedented shutdown, it is looking like it might go on until congress and the president are able to come to an agreement on the federal budget.
Meanwhile, since the shutdown began on December 22, federal employees that have been furloughed or working without pay are challenged to make ends meet.
In Colorado, about 15,000 federal employees are affected by the shutdown, and, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, over 2,000 unemployment claims had been submitted by Tuesday, January 15. Forty percent of the claims were filed by Department of the Interior employees.
In Grand County, Bureau of Land Management, National Park and USDA Forest Service employees make up the majority of the employees affected by the shutdown.
The shutdown will likely impact the lives and livelihood of most federal employees, given that an estimated 78% (4 out of 5) of US workers live paycheck to paycheck. While the president has signed a bill giving workers back pay once the shutdown ends, an employee who receives any financial assistance, such as unemployment, during the shutdown, must pay back the funds when the shutdown ends. This puts workers in a difficult spot. They are now faced with deciding whether to ask for assistance and go through the hassle of returning funds, as necessary, or, tighten the purse strings, attempt to negotiate with lenders and landlords or take out a loan.
These are our neighbors and our friends and, in Grand County, support for these employees continues to grow.
Businesses, including the Grand Park Community Rec Center and DirectTV are offering federal employees flexibility in payment options.
Snow Mountain Ranch is offering a free day pass and meal to Grand County federal workers.
Showboat’s Drive By Pie in Granby has extended the offer of dinner and pie to any furloughed government employee for as long as the shutdown goes on. “I’ve decided to be the change”, said owner, Sherry Kent, adding, “I encourage everyone to do the same” .
Jim Magill and Gary Piper refreshed the reminder that the dinners at the Cranmer Chapel in downtown Winter Park every other Friday are open to all, including federal employees.
While we wait anxiously for the shutdown to end, it is good to know we live in a community that takes care of its residents.
Rocky Mountain National Park resumes basic services
On January 12th, a limited number of park staff began plowing US 34 past the Fall River entrance and at US 36 past the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center so that it can, once again, be accessible to visitors. Custodians cleaned bathrooms and emptied trash and some basic services such as entrance stations and several loops of the Moraine Park Campground were also reopened. The entrance stations are open to provide visitors with safety and basic information, but they are not collecting entrance fees.
The basic services are being funded by revenue generated by recreation fees. By using the Federal Land and Recreation fees, the park is able to restore accessibility to park visitors.
Outdoor areas of the park remain accessible. Most facilities, including Beaver Meadows Visitor Center on the east side and Kawuneeche Visitor Center on the west side will remain closed. “We greatly appreciate Rocky Mountain Conservancy’s efforts to staff the Fall River Visitor Center during the lapse in appropriations,” said park superintendent Darla Sidles. Fall River Visitor Center is located outside of the park near the Fall River Entrance.
While basic visitor services have been restored, other services will be limited or unavailable during the lapse in appropriations, including visitor centers, ranger talks and programs. Visitors are reminded that all rules and regulations still apply and to visit the park website at nps.gov/romo while planning their visit to get the latest information on accessibility and available services.
For updates on the shutdown, visit www.doi.gov/shutdown.