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Virginia Economic Roundup: Government Shutdown Edition

June 20, 2018

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s office said that about 300 full- and part-time state employees would be impacted “in some capacity” by the federal government shutdown.

State agencies had until Oct. 4 to determine the impact of the shutdown on associated programs or employees. Martin Kent, McDonnell’s chief of staff, said that about 200 of the affected employees were part-time employees who were furloughed or full-time employees cut back to part-time.

‘“We believe as of this moment that mission-critical operations can be absorbed in the short run and should an emergency arise those on furloughed status can be recalled, as needed,” Kent said.

Furloughed Defense Employees Return to Work

President Barack Obama signed the Pay Our Military Act last weekend, eliminating furloughs for “employees whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members,” according to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

The act was intended to keep service members working during the shutdown, but Hagel said that a legal review found that many civilian defense employees were included as well.

All 2,300 furloughed civilian employees at Langley Air Force Base (AFB) in Hampton returned to work Oct. 7, as did 110 employees at Fort A.P. Hill in Caroline County. The commissaries at Langley AFB and Marine Corps Base Quantico also reopened.

While employees at Fort Lee near Petersburg returned to work, the base cancelled several events due to a lack of resources, including the base’s annual Run for the Fallen.

Shutdown Takes Toll on Tourism

Many Virginia tourist hotspots were closed due to the shutdown, with some tourists reporting confusion on which sites remained open and which were closed.

Among the closed federal tourist sites were Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive. The federally run Blue Ridge Parkway remained open, but visitor centers and other facilities along the parkway were closed.

All 36 state parks remained open, but access to False Cape State Park in Virginia Beach and nonprofit-run Historic Jamestowne was limited because visitors access those parks via federal property.

Some tourist groups faced tough decisions on whether to go forward with planned events. The Chincoteague Island Oyster Festival on the Eastern Shore will go on as planned despite the closure of the popular beaches at the Assateague Island National Seashore and the Chincoteague Island Wildlife Refuge.

Civil War battlefields in the Fredericksburg and Petersburg areas were closed, but some privately run Civil War tourist destinations remained open.

Farms Feel Loss of Agriculture Services

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was shut down after it was deemed “nonessential,” impacting farmers’ abilities to run their farms.

The U.S. Farm Service Agency and the U.S. National Resource and Conservation Services, were also shut down.

The Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) operates on a combination of federal, state and local funds, and is staying open on other support with limited ability to help farmers. The USDA remains shut down and its website was taken offline, cutting farmers off from support services.

The loss of federal subsidies affects farmers’ abilities to install essential elements in preparation for next year’s crop.

“The farmer incurs the cost upfront and is reimbursed by whichever agency,” Pittsylvania County VCE agent Stephen Barts said. “He’s already spent the money, the check’s already been cashed. There’s concern over whether those [reimbursements] are going to go through.”

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