EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 1, 2013

Residents, agencies unhappy about potential government shutdown

By Alex Lippa
alippa@eagletribune.com

---- — A month ago, Londonderry resident Don Moskowitz circled today’s date on his calendar.

“I saw it coming and sold off a lot of my stocks,” he said. “I’ve been looking ahead to this shutdown for a long time.”

Moskowitz was wary of the government shutdown. Congressional Republicans and Democrats negotiated yesterday on a new spending bill, with Republicans demanding a delay of the nation’s healthcare overhaul as the price for averting a partial government shutdown at midnight.

Yesterday afternoon, the U.S. Senate voted, 54-46, to reject the latest House version of the spending bill.

If the government did shut down at midnight, many income borrowers and first-time homebuyers seeking government-backed mortgages could face delays. National parks and museums would be closed, while hundreds of thousands of federal employees would be furloughed.

While lawmakers continued talking in Washington yesterday, at Wal-Mart in Derry, many residents were frustrated with the looming shutdown.

“I think it’s a joke,” said Ross Therrien, 55, of Londonderry. “The government should be embarrassed by the way they’re acting.”

Rita Magoon of Derry was worried about how things would operate without some federal employees.

“These are our experts,” she said. “We’re experiencing out-of-the-ordinary events. I don’t know how things would work.”

At White Mountain National Forest headquarters, employees had been preparing since Friday for a shutdown.

“There remains a lot of uncertainty,” said Tiffany Benna, the public affairs officer for the forest. “We are very concerned about what effects it might have on the public and for the businesses whose livelihood depends on the forest.”

Benna said the shutdown would come at a tough time.

“Many people come up here during foliage season,” she said. “This is our biggest season to continue doing construction contracts and start securing timber sales contracts.”

Benna said all 120 employees are being told to report to work today, no matter what happens.

“It may just be to close things down,” she said. “It depends what direction we are given.”

Benna said 95 percent of the employees would likely be furloughed.

Therrien said he was disappointed the forest could be closing.

“These parks belong to us,” he said. “I think it’s absolutely ridiculous that they are going to be impacted.”

Other impacts could include the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program for low-income seniors.

“There is not going to be an immediate impact on the WIC program, we have some funding that was unspent from last year,” said Dr. Jose Montero, New Hampshire’s Director of Public Health. “We can cover it for several more weeks until we can get the authorization to spend again.”

But the senior food program would take an immediate hit. That’s government commodity food that seniors pick up at distribution centers.

“That program doesn’t have carryover funding; it will end,” Montero said. “We have food already purchased which should help us for about a week.”

Also impacted would be the Head Start pre-kindergarten program for low income families.

“Only 23 of the 1,600 Head Starts in the nation were slated to receive funding for October,” said Kenneth Wolfe, public affairs officer, for the Administration for Children and Families. “None of those are in New Hampshire.”

Brian Bullock, executive vice president at Enterprise Bank, said he thought impacts for commercial loans would be minimal.

“We believe it will be business as usual,” he said. “If anything, there may be delays in (Small Business Administration) loans. If it’s a lengthy shutdown, you may have customers that deal directly with the federal government that need payments. But if it’s just a few days or a week, that won’t be too traumatic.”

The last time the government was shut down was from Dec. 16, 1995, through Jan. 5, 1996.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.