Shutdown creates vacuum in areas far beyond the Beltway; Closed government takes its toll on business

By Stephen Barr
Thursday, March 3, 2011; 2:47 PM

From The Washington Post archives

Published: December 29, 1995, Friday, Final Edition

The shutdown is about to put Jim Thomas out of business.

Thomas holds the federal contract to operate the horse-drawn sleigh ride at the National Elk Refuge near Jackson Hole, Wyo. Instead of hauling 1,000 visitors a day across the snow to see the wintering herds, he is home calling lenders to tell them he cannot pay his debts.

The government's decision to close national refuges and parks has cost him about $ 60,000, forced him to lay off 12 employees and park his seven sleighs. "If they don't get the refuge open by the first of the year, I don't know what I can do," Thomas said yesterday.

The shutdown, shrugged off at the start by many Americans as Washington political theater, now seems more serious.

It is reaching far beyond the 760,000 federal workers who likely will get half-full paychecks next week. And beyond the tourists who have been grumbling about locked museum doors on the Mall.

On Tuesday, the "Superfund" toxic waste cleanup program will run out of money used to keep 2,500 federal employees working. Within five days of shutting down Superfund oversight, up to 10,000 contract employees across the nation could be thrown out of work, the Environmental Protection Agency said.

Grants for medical research are backed up at the National Institutes of Health. About 2,000 researchers, many expecting grant money next week, will not receive their funding on time. Among those waiting are 130 cancer researchers who were approved for funding this month but did not get their money because NIH had to close, officials said.

In Mariposa County, Calif., near Yosemite National Park, the county board of supervisors has asked the governor to declare the county an economic disaster area. With the park closed and tourists departing, the county is losing from $8,000 to $ 10,000 a day in tax revenue, the Interior Department said.

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