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3 ways a government shutdown could affect Utah

3 ways a government shutdown could affect Utah

(Carter Williams,

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — They say if it weren’t for deadlines, nothing would get done.

Yet Congress doesn't always seem to get the message.

Luckily, bipartisan congressional negotiators reached an agreement late Sunday on a spending bill that would fund the government through the end of September if approved by the House and Senate.

The government has shut down 18 different times beginning in 1976, and last time shut down for 16 days in 2013, costing taxpayers $2 billion in lost productivity, according to the Office of Management and Budget. Two earlier shutdowns cost the U.S. $1.4 billion in late 1995 and early 1996.

While a government shutdown would impact the entire nation, Utah, in particular, could face specific challenges. Here are three ways a government shutdown could affect Utah.

National parks, monuments, zoos, museums etc.

With all nonessential federal employees at home, the national parks, monuments, zoos and museums would also shut down. Utah’s five national parks, including Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches and Canyonlands would be closed to tourists and locals alike.

The tourism revenue lost could seriously hurt the towns that surround the national monuments. Visitors spent $7.8 billion in Utah in 2015, amounting to $1.07 billion in state and local tax revenues. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert challenged the industry to increase tax revenue to $1.2 billion by 2020. If the government shuts down, this goal would be more difficult to reach.

Small towns and counties

During the last government shutdown in 2013, nine Utah counties were forced to declare a state of emergency due to “economic disruption” caused by the closure of the national parks, including Washington, Kane, San Juan, Garfield, Sevier, Grand, Iron, Wayne and Piute County. During the shutdown, officials from these counties met together to discuss the strain on tourism-dependent communities near the parks.

Communities like Springdale were left empty as tourism dropped off during the final weeks of what should have been the town’s busiest season, and the declaration shed light on how dependent Washington County was on revenue from the 3 million annual visitors who traveled to Zion National Park.


Utah finally decided to dip into state funds and spent nearly $1 million to reopen national parks during the shutdown, which paid off. Visitors to national parks in the state spent about $10 for every $1 the state paid the U.S. government to reopen nine parks, monuments and recreation areas during a six-day period in October 2013, the officials from the National Park Service said.

Furloughed federal employees

Utah employs over 34,000 federal employees, according to 2014 federal employment statistics and around 40 percent of those employees may be furloughed, or temporarily laid off during a government shutdown. When the government closes shop, nonessential federal employees can't even check their work emails while at home.

While the economic impact of this furlough depends entirely on the length of the shutdown, the layoffs create uncertainty for the federal employees who depend on the income and for Utah residents who rely on government services like the Social Security Administration (though Social Security payments were still sent during the last shutdown, according to CNN).

Tax refunds, passports, federal loans, gun permits and other services that rely on government funding would also be delayed indefinitely.

Essential federal employees who would continue to work during the shutdown include active military personnel and postmen. So rest assured, those Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons will still show up in the mailbox.

Liesl Nielsen


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