Area Agencies Not Yet Feeling Effects of Federal Shutdown

What effect will the federal shutdown have on Wisconsin? It depends.

There are some 13,000 federal workers in the state, which amounts to about 0.73 percent of the work force. A little less than half of the total – 7,100 people – work for the Veterans Health Administration, which was already funded for the year so is not affected by the federal shutdown that went into effect Oct. 1 as House Republicans continued to jockey to delay or defund the Affordable Care Act.

The Department of Agriculture has 1,500 employees in the state. Food safety inspectors are not affected by the shutdown, but any research is suspended for now.

Fort McCoy employs 900 federal workers who will be on unpaid furlough. The Department of Interior reported that it furloughed 80 percent of its 750 employees in Wisconsin, all except law enforcement and safety personnel.

The Genoa National Fish Hatchery on the western side of the state is shut down at the key spawning time, which will likely affect fish stocking programs.

All national parks are closed, including the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore during one of the biggest weekends of the year for the Apostle Islands area as Bayfield holds its annual Apple Festival, which draws thousands to one of the state’s most northern communities.

Those weekend visitors will find that the Apostle Islands Cruises are being allowed to run through the Apostle Islands but must stay outside the park boundary of ¼-mile around each island. All day trips, camping and hiking on the islands have ceased until further notice and the popular sea caves on the mainland at Meyers Beach are gated off for the first time in the history of the park. The park visitor center in Bayfield and the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center near Ashland are closed to the public.

“The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore plays a key economic role for the region and brings in 180,000 visitors and millions of dollars in tourism dollars. Although the impact will be lessened by the timing of the shutdown, we will still feel the repercussions and we will definitely see a loss of tourism spending,” said David Eades, 
executive director
of the Bayfield Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Bureau.

“The thousands of visitors that come here for this weekend’s Apple Festival in Bayfield and next week’s Whistle Stop Marathon in Ashland also take time to enjoy a trip to the islands or hike at the sea caves to enjoy the fall color, or visit one of the beautiful visitor centers and will be sadly disappointed with the closure. We hope that this is a short lived shutdown for the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, as well as all national parks and the federal government is opened again soon.”

Closer to home, staff at the Door County Housing Authority wondered if federal funding for October would come through, but it did arrive on Oct. 1.

“But our head office in Milwaukee is closed down, so we can get no help or direction from them at this point,” said Sue Binish, executive director of Door County Housing Authority, which provides rental assistance to an average of 230 families every month. “No word has come to us as far as what to expect to happen. If we don’t get funding for November, we have a cushion that we can work with. We have enough reserves that we can keep going about six months, but we’ll never get that cushion back.”

Other Door County agencies that administer federally funded programs, such as WIC (Women, Infants & Children) administered by the Door County Public Health Dept. and energy assistance programs administered by We Are Hope, Inc., have not yet seen any affect from the federal shutdown.

“Our doors are open,” said Carol Jackomino, director of the Family & Child Learning Center of NE Wisconsin, which oversees 11 Head Start programs in northeastern Wisconsin, including the Sturgeon Bay Head Start.

Funding for the 11 Head Start programs overseen by the Rhinelander-based agency was granted in July from 2013 appropriations.

The U.S. Coast Guard, with a station in Sturgeon Bay, is not affected by the shutdown.