SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Congress is negotiating in Washington DC on Wednesday, in hopes that a resolution can be found to maintain funding for government agencies until early December.
If enough votes are not obtained – Democrats will need help reaching the 60 votes needed to pass the resolution in the Senate – the government will enter a shutdown when the clock strikes at 12:01 am Friday.
The effects of a potential shutdown would certainly be felt in the Hive State, according to Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah.
They were felt during the last government shutdown from December 22, 2018 to January 25, 2019, Perry says.
âThe Utahns pretty much know since the last shutdown, it had an impact here,â he told ABC4.com, mentioning that the university’s Gardner Policy Institute estimated that around 10,000 government employees in Utah were on leave or working without pay during the previous stoppage.
These employees included a large portion of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), about 1,000 in total, living in the Davis and Weber County area, which Perry said is the highest concentration of federal employees in the western United States, who was asked to work without pay while on vacation during that 35-day period between 2018 and 2019.
Other government agencies that have a major impact on daily life in Utah would also be affected, one of the most notable perhaps being the National Parks Services (NPS). Any government shutdown would result in the closure of national parks, of which Utah has the most in the country. The impact could reverberate through communities who depend on parks for their livelihoods.
“When it comes to a national park, for example, all the hotels, the restaurants, the people who work for them, they are all affected to some extent, and that also has an impact on the state of the ‘Utah,’ illustrates Perry. “There is also an economic impact there, and most definitely an impact on the paychecks of these workers and the impacts on their families.”
During the 2018-19 shutdown, state funds were reallocated to keep Utah national parks open, due to fears of economic disaster in their communities.
ABC4.com contacted the IRS and was directed to resources provided by the US Department of the Treasury. Although part of a 130-page IRS overview states “While we do not plan to use the plan, prudent management requires agencies to prepare for this eventuality,” a plan is in place at worst case scenario and a shutdown is activated.
According to the IRS contingency plan, a percentage of employees would be retained in the event of a business interruption. If a shutdown were to occur during a non-filing season (which coincidentally begins on Friday, when that potential shutdown would go into effect and last until the end of 2021), 39% of employees would stay on the job. On a hypothetical shutdown during the filling season, that number would drop to 57.6%.
ABC4 also contacted an NPS spokesperson, who said the organization was reviewing its contingency plan while adding “Decisions regarding specific operations and programs have not been made.”
If the figurative doors of Congress were to be slammed for an indefinite period of time, Perry worries it will become some sort of humming affair, with voices on both sides blaming the other. That, along with an already widespread mistrust of the government on the part of some, could make things ugly.
âBesides the other implications of the shutdown, this is becoming a serious messaging problem on both sides of the aisle,â Perry speculates. âThis is what happens after a government shutdown. People start to wonder who is to blame, and both parties will try to blame the other party.
But as talks continue in the nation’s capital, Perry hopes government leaders can avoid a shutdown that would be the first to occur during a global pandemic.
“From my observations, negotiations are taking place in Washington in earnest and there appears to be a desire to ensure that a government shutdown does not happen.”