While some members of the House Appropriations committee said at the end of last week they do not think there will be a government shutdown, there are only 3 or 4 legislative days left for the House and Senate to act to avert a shutdown. A survey of Capitol Hill insiders by The Fiscal Times found that most believe the government will shut down for a few days. If a continuing resolution (CR) is not passed or a budget is not approved and signed by the President, the United States government will cease all non-essential operations at midnight on April 8th.
The Forest Service indicated that they would NOT prohibit outfitter operations from continuing but did say access roads may be gated and locked and that might prohibit operations. This is the same message we are hearing from other agencies, although this situation could change if the Administration makes a decision to lockout the public and commercial operations. There is no official word from the National Park Service at the national level. Some local Superintendents have said access will be closed and gates locked, but at least one Superintendent said he intended to keep his Park open. State and federal highways through National Parks cannot be closed legally.
Some legal advisors to government contractors are reportedly telling their clients to keep a record of lost revenues that result from a disruption in their services as a result of the shutdown. These losses may or may not be a contract violation depending on the conditions in each contract. At any rate, if you have a contract or permit with a federal agency, such record keeping is probably a good idea. For permit holders required to meet certain use levels to retain their permits, loss of business as a result of a shutdown can be used as documentation in an effort to avoid allocation reductions.
Obviously, companies with trips scheduled to start next week are getting a bit nervous and will have customers getting nervous. Some may have to make alternative plans. If customers call your business, it is up to you on how you handle it, but you could suggest they call their Senators and Representatives. Help them find the number quickly through Congress.org. Be sure you give them the U.S. Representative, which is listed in the left hand column, and not their state Representative. This is supposed to be a non-partisan site although it does have articles and editorials about issues on it. All you need is the zip code where they vote to find their Senators and Representatives.
During our meetings on the Hill last month, a Congressman said one of the most prominent sources of complaints when the government was shut down in the 90’s came from visitors to National Parks who had to cancel their vacations. I had a meeting with Sen. Craig Thomas during that shutdown and it was obvious that locking the public out of National Parks was one of the key thorns inflicted by the shutdown.
If there is a shutdown, any road that has a gate will be subject to closure unless there is some Executive Order or legislative action directing that they remain open. Some closures may be subject to the discretion of the federal official in charge of the area unless there is a blanket order to lock the gates on federal lands.
We also suggest that you work with your local communities, Chambers of Commerce or Tourism boards at the local and state level. Urge action by Congress and the Administration to enable these federal resources to remain open for business and public access even if there is a shutdown and to encourage Congress to break the budget impasse, which is about the only sure fire way to stop the shutdown. Some companies are at the start or in the middle of their season and are still struggling to recover from the recession. A shutdown could be catastrophic to them and their communities.