Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor offices at 1 Depot Square had cleared out, the most immediate local effect of the federal government shutdown.By about noon today, all personnel at the
Websites for the National Parks Services and the US Census Bureau are off-line.
Republican Congressmen have demanded changes in the Affordable Care Act, passed into law in March 2010, as the price for their vote on essential federal funding, and President Barack Obama and Democrats have refused. The stalemate resulted in the shutdown of most federal government services today.
The politically independent GAO (Government Accounting Office) says the healthcare law will not add to the deficit, as long as cost-saving measures in it are left alone. In 2012, the US Supreme Court upheld most of the law.
Jennifer Smith, acting director for the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, said the shutdown has put the six employees of her office, including herself, on furlough. "So everybody has left the building for whatever the duration is," Smith said. The building itself is owned by RIDOT, but is locked.
During the shutdown, there will be no ranger tours, and the Corridor's involvement in many annual fall events is suspended. No officials from Smith's office will participate in planning for several fall festivals in the Blackstone River Valley area, including Autumnfest.
Park rangers were supposed to run a table at Autumnfest to speak with people about the Corridor, Smith said. It would've been the first time in a long time National Park Service personnel participated in the event.
Efforts to create a permanent National Park within the Blackstone Valley are also on hold. Smith said she and her colleagues want to get back to work helping the public enjoy the natural beauty of the Blackstone River Valley.
Elsewhere in Woonsocket, the effect on local services dependent on federal funds is unaffected, at least in the short term.
Woonsocket Head Start operates on Fiscal 2013 funding throughout the year, said the organzation's fiscal officer, Donna Stringer. They won't need more federal funds until next September.
There are about 7,280 households, totaling 13,931 individuals in Woonsocket receiving federal food aid through the SNAP (Food Stamp) program, said Frederick Sneesby, spokesman for the state Department of Human Services. In the near-term those receiving food assistance will continue to receive benefits, but likely only for about three weeks.
At the Planning Department, Planning Director Paulette Miller said pre-FY 2014 program funds will continue uninterrupted. These funds aid local services provided by Family Resources, YMCA, RiverzEdge, Senior Services, and RSVP. It would also cover city-initiated projects, such as road reconstruction and public building rehab.
Funding to Family Resources Community Action, about $80,000 used to aid the homeless and to run emergency shelters, is not affected, Miller said.