The federal government shut down Tuesday for the first time in 17 years. While members of Congress debated the long-term effects of the shutdown, 13,000 federal employees in Alaska woke up to an unpaid day off.
To get a better idea of how the shutdown is affecting the Kenai Peninsula,we called the Kenai office of Senator Lisa Murkowski. No one answered there, although Senator Murkowski did urge her Republican colleagues to make a compromise Tuesday, saying that real lives and real families were at stake and that the operation of the government should not just be about “the next election.”
The Coast Guard office in Homer is open and Petty Officer Adam Eggers says that all Coast Guard personnel – as members of the U.S. military – are on duty just like always, at least when it comes to “essential” missions like search and rescue. But, like other military members, Coast Guardsmen are concerned that the shutdown might prevent them from receiving their paychecks on time.
In Homer, City Manager Walt Wrede didn’t seem too worried about the state-run Homer Airport but he was concerned that if the shutdown lasts longer than a few days, the city’s many grants and cooperative agreements with the federal government could be affected.
Martha Wagele says Homer Head Start is indeed open. Wagele says the Homer program is run through RuralCAP in Anchorage and, at least as far as she knows, there are no plans to restrict or shut down the program in the near future.
That was not the case at the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center. A sign on the locked door of the Islands and Ocean Center directed visitors the Department of Interior website, which has a more comprehensive explanation of how the shutdown will affect federal agencies like the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife.
One thing that’s maybe not so obvious is the effect all of this is having on the many federal employees who live and work on the Kenai Peninsula. Walt Wrede says he’s concerned that all of those folks going without paychecks will hurt the local economy if the shutdown lasts too long.