Chambers, Area Business Groups Decry Impact of Federal Shutdown

U.S. REP. DON BEYER (center, rear) hosted a roundtable of furloughed federal workers and non-profit leaders to discuss the impact of the current federal shutdown in Alexandria last Friday. (Photo; News-Press)

With President Trump’s federal government shutdown now the longest in U.S. history and in its fourth week, the detrimental impact on the economy and social services demands across the nation are threatening to cripple the nation’s growth, and the accumulating impact on furloughed federal workers in Northern Virginia is reaching a breaking point.

Area leaders are calling for an immediate end to the shutdown, including Virginia’s leaders in Congress and the Greater Washington Board of Trade and Chambers of Commerce throughout the area.

The Falls Church Chamber of Commerce added its name to a growing list of other Chambers and business organizations in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area “strongly urging the president and congressional leaders to reopen the federal government as soon as possible,” according to a statement released by the Board of Trade this week.

“Economic shocks are felt throughout the region as the government holds back pay for contractors and nearly 150,000 federal employees,” the Board of Trade statement declared. “The federal government shutdown, now the longest in our nation’s history, is putting unsustainable financial strain on contractors and households of nearly 150,000 federal workers in the region, as well as the local businesses that serve them.”

The board listed 22 business organizations strongly urging the immediate reopening of the federal government, including the Falls Church Chamber along with 14 other regional Chambers, and business groups such as the Restaurant Association of Metro Washington, the Hotel Association of Washington, D.C., the D.C. Building Industry Association and Apartment and Office Building Association of Metro Washington.

“From small business loans to permits to data, the federal government provides a wide range of benefits that help American companies succeed. Our economy depends on the cooperation of the private and public sectors, and when one ceases to function, the other can’t continue business as usual,” siad Jack McDougle, president and CEO of the Board of Trade.

Elected officials have also been weighing in, led by U.S. Rep. Don Beyer Jr., whose 8th District of Virginia includes the City of Falls Church, who has more federal workers in his district (80,000) than in any other district in the U.S.

Beyer convened a community roundtable with furloughed workers and local leaders to assess the impact of the fact that federal workers would not be receiving their paychecks beginning last Friday.

He sought, he said, to “facilitate conversations about how members of the community affected by the ongoing shutdown can help each other, and to publicize resources available to furloughed and unpaid workers and their families.”

Don Beyer Jr. is co-owner with his brother, Mike, of Beyer Automotive, based in Falls Church, and his company announced last week that it will assist customers with customized plans to get vehicles serviced or repaired with programs like deferred payments. “We will do our best to serve our customers with kindness, compassion and understanding,” the company statement said.

Representatives from the American Federation of Government Employees, the National Treasury Employees Union, the National Federation of Federal Employees and other small business owners and non-profit leaders met with Beyer at the United Way headquarters in Alexandria last Friday to share their experiences and thoughts with Rep. Beyer.

While many at the meeting confirmed the love of their jobs, and told stories of leaving the private sector in favor of public service, they lamented the threat of severe contractions in their spending ability, including an inability to dine out, to make mortgage payments and pay debts to maintain their credit ratings.

“There will be a severe ripple effect on the regional economy, overall,” one said, and the impact will fall the hardest on the most vulnerable.

Beyer cited the statistic showing that half of American families cannot handle the burden of an unexpected expense of even $500. “Most people live paycheck to paycheck,” he noted, and there is permanent damage that is already arising from this.”

Suicides and spikes in drug abuse are among the most dangerous effects, and the inability of the poor to obtain vouchers for their housing will send many out onto the streets.

“Trump is intentionally inflicting pain and weaponizing it,” one noted, and the crisis is growing with a “snowball effect” to impact the entire economy.
The impact will be even more severe in rural parts of America where there are not the non-profits to help alleviate the suffering, it was noted, and the fact that so many farmers are not now planting could lead to food shortages in the near future.

Virginia’s U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine also held roundtables of impacted citizens, and Kaine spoke on “Meet the Press” last Sunday about the impact of having 100s of thousands of public servants, and their families, beginning to receive paychecks of $0. Overall, he noted, Virginia has 1709,000 federal employees and thousands of federal contractors.

“Who’s he injuring?” Kaine said of Trump. “We’ve got 13,000 F.B.I. agents, more than 10,000 Bureau of Prison guards, air traffic controllers, Coast Guard folk who interdict drugs — all of them working without pay because of this President’s shutdown, and yet he says he cares about national security when he’s taking paychecks away from hardworking public safety professionals? It makes no sense,” Kaine said.

Kaine led the effort to win a unanimous vote to secure back pay for federal workers once the government is reopened, as Beyer led the effort in the House. The bill was signed by the President Wednesday.