By Melissa Goodwin
It’s the lead story on every news outlet, the topic of conversation in the lunchroom, and the trending topic on social media: the government shutdown. We can all agree that the sooner our government reopens, the better. Everyone sympathizes with the federal employees who are working without pay or who have been furloughed because of the inability of Congress and the White House to come to an agreement on how to handle border security. It’s human nature to gauge just how bad things are by how they affect us personally. The tricky part about this subject is that although you may not feel the pinch of the shutdown unless you’re a federal employee who is directly affected, the consequences are mounting every day in ways that you may not have considered. And those consequences are becoming increasingly alarming for all Arizonans.
According to a recent report by the personal finance website WalletHub, Arizona ranks number 10 on their list of states most affected by the shutdown. The website based its rankings on five different metrics: federal employment compared to total employment, federal contract dollars per capita, the number of families receiving food stamps, real estate as a percentage of gross state product, and access to national parks. According to WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez, Arizona’s abundance of national parks played a large role in Arizona’s high ranking.
Some of Arizona’s national parks are closed during the shutdown, including Montezuma’s Castle and Well, Walnut Canyon, the Petrified Forest National Park, and the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. Others remain accessible, but without normal services. Even Arizona’s National Park Services website is showing the effects. The website is not being updated and does not reflect current conditions.
National parks around the country are suffering dire consequences from being kept open with a skeleton crew. Overflowing toilets, trash strewn everywhere, and trespassing have been reported at many parks. Aside from the obvious issues, more sinister consequences are also being felt. According to the National Parks Conservation Association, staff shortages could lead to search-and-rescue delays. Far fewer rangers are available in parks to educate visitors and monitor behavior, increasing the likelihood that people will be exposed to dangerous situations. Seven people have already died in parks since the shutdown began, according to Mike Litterst, National Park Service acting chief spokesperson and chief of public affairs.
Wildlife is being affected, too. Exposure to sewage is a huge risk to humans and animals alike. Leaving trash out in the open could also upset the delicate balance parks must maintain between visitors and wildlife. The park service has worked hard to wean animals off human food. Now, with overflowing trash cans, animals may begin associating food with humans, causing the possibility of animal attacks and ensuing euthanasias.
National parks also contribute to science, as well. Many experiments are underway in the parks, requiring daily or weekly data collection by park employees. All that progress has halted now, leaving wide gaps in the data.
Fortunately for Arizona’s most beloved national park, the Grand Canyon, the shutdown will have little effect. Last year, under the spectre of another government shutdown, Governor Doug Ducey issued an executive order for the state’s tourism and parks offices to pay for day-to-day operations to keep the park open and operating with full services. The plan allows for public access to trails, shuttle service, trash pickup, snow removal and
public safety, costing $64,383.76 a week according to a governor’s office spokesman.
The shutdown is having a huge economic impact on Arizona as well. The pinch on government workers trickles down to the private sector, affecting consumer confidence. The government shutting down affects the Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Housing Administration, and the Social Security Administration, to name a few. That’s impacting Arizona’s real estate market, as the federal government has its hands all over the home buying process. The IRS, Social Security Administration, FHA, and even the U.S. Department of Agriculture provide documentation to borrowers. Home buyers seeking Federal Housing Administration loans will have to wait, causing frustration along with the economic impact.
The fallout impacts Arizona’s most vulnerable residents. The U.S. Department of Agriculture office, which oversees the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) has seen its staff cut by 95 percent. This means that a prolonged shutdown could “lead to significant health consequences if babies and young children lose access to nutritious foods and vital breastfeeding support,” according to Rev. Douglas Greenaway, president and CEO of the National WIC Association.
While some of us may feel removed from the shutdown, it is clear that Arizonans will feel the repercussions of the shutdown, if they haven’t already. Even if the government reopens soon, the damage that the shutdown has caused will linger. Based on all of the economic, environmental, social, and scientific setbacks, we could be in recovery mode for quite some time.
Melissa Goodwin is the owner of Wave Health and Pain Therapy where she offers low-frequency acoustic wave pressure therapy, a drug-free, non-invasive approach to total body health and pain relief. Learn more at www.wavehealthaz.com.