By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONWAY – As legions of motorists and tour buses roll north to the Mount Washington Valley this weekend, a federal shutdown could impact visitors to the 800,000-acre White Mountain National Forest at its busiest time of the year.
Still, events in the White Mountains this weekend are expected to go on as planned but on the forest, it might be hard to find services if the government shuts down.
At the Saco Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service, on the eastern edge of the Kancamagus Highway in Albany where the reds, oranges and yellows of the leaves were turning Thursday, workers there were preparing to be furloughed and to shut the door come Sunday.
The phone won’t be answered. The bathrooms won’t be cleaned. A locked building will have signs on the door. Those with a problem at their campsite would have to call 9-1-1.
Workers here are among an estimated 5,000 federal workers in the state, considered “non-essential” who will be locked out of work until a continuing resolution is signed to keep the government open.
With foliage just beginning, relatively warm days, fair hiking and camping weather and those clinging to summer still lingering outside, and events planned around the forest, the timing is pretty lousy.
This could be the first time since 2018 when the government shut down for 34 days.
While vital services like the U.S. Post Office will stay open in a shutdown and people will get their Social Security checks and Medicaid benefits, it will impact the federal Women’s Infants and Children program that provides nutritional help to an estimated 10,000 infants and children across the state and close federal Head Start child care programs.
While Transportation Safety Administration officials are considered “essential” in past shutdowns it led to slowdowns with safety checks at the airports.
And it could impact local businesses as well, said both Democratic U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan in statements saying this week there will be real hurt.
While some consider shut downs disruptive and ineffective, others say there is a $2 trillion deficit and Republicans want to see more cuts.
To keep government open, the House must first move on a continuing resolution but a minority of conservative members are pushing for more reductions and other considerations to approve even a month more funding.
The conservatives are threatening to oust Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy as Speaker if he doesn’t pressure for more concessions from the Democratic Biden Administration.