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News / Clark County News

Government shutdown would likely close Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Active duty military face furlough, delayed pay; WIC could be paused

By Carlos Fuentes, Columbian staff writer
Published: September 28, 2023, 6:03am

Many of the roughly 3,800 federal employees who live in Clark County would keep working through a potential government shutdown, according to regional economist Scott Bailey.

During a shutdown, which could begin this weekend, federal agencies must furlough all of their nonessential workers. According to Bailey, the two biggest federal employers in Clark County — the Bonneville Power Administration and the VA Medical Center in Vancouver — will mostly continue operations as normal.

A shutdown will happen if Congress fails to approve appropriations bills for the next fiscal year or fails to adopt a continuing resolution to keep the government funded until later in the fall.

The VA Medical Center in Vancouver will continue operating at full capacity, according to Kelli Roesch, public affairs specialist with the Portland VA.

“Most of the VA is on a different appropriations cycle, so we do not fall under the same issues that much of the government is falling under,” Roesch said. “We will continue to serve veterans. We will continue to be here at work.”

Similarly, the Bonneville Power Administration should continue operations with few furloughs, according to Bailey.

Together, the Bonneville Power Administration and the VA Medical Center in Vancouver — with 1,195 and 1,083 employees, respectively — make up about 60 percent of Clark County’s federal employees, according to Bailey.

The Fort Vancouver National Historic Site and Gifford Pinchot National Forest will likely shut down all services, according to the National Forest Foundation. The National Park Service did not respond to a request for comment.

It is unclear whether smaller federal offices in Vancouver, like the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Highway Administration, would remain open. Workers at each office declined to comment on the matter.

While many federal workers will continue working through a shutdown, some will not receive their paychecks until after the shutdown, according to the National Treasury Employees Union.

Other consequences

A government shutdown wouldn’t just affect federal employees. A potential shutdown would stop many government welfare programs and harm the national economy, according to the Federal News Network.

If the shutdown occurs, the Department of Agriculture would be forced to stop processing farm loans, which provide nearly $70 million to farmers in Washington each year, according to a press release from Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Skamania.

“Active-duty service members could work without paychecks, WIC recipients could struggle to put food on the table, and farmers and small business owners could have difficulty accessing crucial federal loans,” the release states.

Another impact: The Small Business Administration would stop processing small business loans. The 2018-19 government shutdown led to a delay of $2 billion in small business loans, according to the statement.

“Every moment the government is shut down, real people face real consequences,” Perez said in the statement. “I’ve called on House leadership several times to work across the aisle to meet the basic job of funding our government.”

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, this week negotiated a bipartisan bill that would allow the government to remain open while appropriations bills are debated. In a statement, Murray said she is working to get it passed as quickly as possible, but it could face a difficult path to approval in the House.

“A shutdown would be devastating for families and working people across Washington state: dedicated service members and federal workers are going to miss the paychecks they need to make ends meet, air travel will be disrupted, kids could lose child care spots that are funded through Head Start, small businesses and farmers won’t be able to get new loans—and this is just the tip of the iceberg,” Murray said.

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Columbian staff writer