It is clear that the partial shutdown of the federal government will have ripple effects in Fairfax County, but it is hard to assess exactly what the ultimate effects will be.
What is known is that there are thousands of furloughed federal employees not receiving paychecks, after many had already gone through furlough days because of across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration — a “double whammy,” said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova (D-At large).
“It’s awful for the federal employees and it impacts Fairfax County’s revenue,” Bulova said. “It’s an awful thing to do to people.”
While the county doesn’t collect a local income tax, like counties in Maryland, Fairfax County has already seen its sales tax revenues come in 2.6 percent lower than projected as a result of sequestration, Bulova said.
“If that continues, that absolutely puts a hole in our budget,” she said.
While county leaders are trying to keep the local congressional delegation informed about known local impacts, “it’s not our members that are the problem,” said Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee).
U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10th) called on his colleagues to resolve the stalemate, speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives Monday. He highlighted impacts to the FBI, CIA, National Institutes of Health and other agencies and employees.
“People and families are being impacted. This is bad for America. It is bad for America. Enough is enough. It’s time to be leaders. It’s time to govern. Open up the government,” Wolf said.
U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11th) said many of his constituents are feeling the pain of missing paychecks. He was one of the sponsors of a bill to ensure that federal employees get back pay for the shutdown period, but he doesn’t know if it will pass.
“There is great angst about being able to meet financial commitments: mortgages, car loans, student loans,” he said.
His office has also heard from constituents trying to apply for federal benefits, like Social Security, whose claims will be delayed until the government reopens for business and immigrants who were about to complete the citizenship process.
There is a slate of federally funded county and state social services programs that will not receive new funding until the budget impasse is resolved but many needs can be covered in the short term, according to an Oct. 1 memo from County Executive Ed Long to the Board of Supervisors.
Some county health department employees whose positions are funded by federal appropriations could be furloughed. At the time of the memo, it was still undetermined whether they would be deemed essential.
Families receiving food support through the Women, Infant and Children Program could be affected if the shutdown continues beyond Friday, and emergency energy assistance payments will also be affected.
The state has given agencies the authority to continue operations through Oct. 4, so additional programs could be affected if the shutdown carries into next week.
In the longer term, Long said in a memo to county employees that he is concerned about the impact to the county’s economy.
“My biggest concern is the ‘domino’ effect it will have on the local economy and the short-term uncertainty that will impact business decisions,” Long wrote.
Bulova said she is particularly concerned that negotiations on Capitol Hill don’t seem to be going anywhere.
“No one seems to be talking. That is what is especially disturbing,” she said Tuesday. “I’m concerned that it could last a long time.”