Leadership

Government Shutdown: Associations Prepare, Help Members

By Ernie Smith / Sep 30, 2013 (iStock/Thinkstock)

With a shutdown of the federal government taking effect this week, associations are working to draw attention to issues that could cause, informing members about what to do, and adjusting their calendars accordingly.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect the latest events.

The clock struck midnight Tuesday in Washington, DC, but the sides still remained almost impossibly far apart.

And with that, a partial government shutdown took effect, and industry groups are bracing for both the economic and logistical impacts. That’s because Congress has failed to pass a 2014 budget or even a temporary spending bill to fund the government. So with October 1 being the first day of the new fiscal year, contractors won’t get paid, many federal employees won’t be going to work, and numerous sectors of the economy will feel the sting—until lawmakers reach a deal. (For those curious about exactly what would get shut down, Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) breaks down the practical impact on his website.)

Among the more pointed concerns in the association space:

A fly-in, grounded? One association that could find its lobbying efforts directly affected is the National Association of Theater Owners. The group has a legislative fly-in scheduled Tuesday—a date set to correspond with its annual meeting taking place Wednesday and Thursday. The association members are looking to discuss issues such as the Affordable Care Act and a rule requiring closed captioning and video descriptions for deaf and blind moviegoers, but they may find the fly-in logistically impossible, as many “nonessential” federal workers, including congressional staffers, would face furloughs. “If the government shuts down on Oct 1. and our NATO Capitol Hill Day meetings are canceled, it will be difficult to get all those members to come back to DC on another day,” one insider noted to The Hollywood Reporter prior to the shutdown.

Parks closed: The National Parks Conservation Association, meanwhile, points out the danger to the country’s national parks, which will be closed, blocking 750,000 visitors from stopping by … and costing nearby communities as much as $30 million in business per day. “A government shutdown would make a bad situation even worse for our national parks,” Theresa Pierno, the NPCA acting president, said in a statement sent prior to the shutdown. “Families, school groups, and tourists from around the world have made plans expecting our parks to be open. Instead, they face the possibility of disruption and disappointment, while local businesses and park concessioners that serve them face the prospect of lost revenue and further economic hardship.” The group previously raised concerns about sequestration and says a shutdown would come at a time when those cuts already have hurt the parks significantly.

Military families feel the effects: The National Military Family Association, which has been in the news in recent weeks for converging on Capitol Hill to protest against sequestration, offers a guide on how members of the military would be affected by a shutdown, how to handle ensuing financial issues, and what to do next. The plus side for service members is that the House and Senate passed a bill, which the president signed, giving active-duty service members a rare exception to the shutdown rules. The association, however, warns about the situation that civilian Department of Defense employees face. “If the government shuts down,” the group wrote prior to the shutdown, “essential civilian employees may be required to work and they will be paid retroactively; however furloughed employees will need an act of Congress to be paid. Civilian employees are encouraged to talk to their supervisor for specific instructions.”

If all this shutdown talk isn’t enough, a fresh debt ceiling battle is also brewing. October 17  is the estimated date that the nation would hit its borrowing limit if the ceiling isn’t raised.

How are you dealing with the shutdown at your organization? Let us know in the comments.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now and a former newspaper guy. More »

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