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County Executive: 'We Live in a Company Town and the Company is the Federal Government'

After a Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, County Executive Ed Long sends memo to county employees on possible impacts of the government shutdown.

County Executive: 'We Live in a Company Town and the Company is the Federal Government'
By  Raytevia Evans

Congress was unable to make a decision Monday night as the country watched and waited as the nation's leaders failed to come to an agreement on the spending bill.

The government came to a screeching halt Tuesday and the affects kicked in immediately throughout the country. Lee District Sup. Jeff McKay said previously that Fairfax County is heavily tied to the federal government. Like surrounding counties in the D.C. metropolitan, Fairfax County and its residents are already feeling the pressure.

In a memo emailed to Fairfax County employees Tuesday, County Executive Ed Long stated that the shutdown has caused many federal employees to be out of work while quite a few are still on the job. Many of these people either live or work in Fairfax County.

"We live in a ‘company town’ and the company is the federal government, so most of us have family and friends who are federal employees or contractors impacted by this shutdown," said Long in the memo.

Long also clarified a few things they do know that directly affects Fairfax County and its residents:
  • The Fairfax County government is open.  We have not shut down.  We are open for business as we are on any other workday.
  • Absentee voting continues as scheduled.
  • Personal  property (car) taxes and registration fees are still due on Monday, Oct. 7, 2013.
  • Some agencies have been directly impacted: the Fairfax County Park Authority manages and operates Langley Fork Park, which is on land owned by the National Park Service, so the park is now closed and activities in that park are suspended.
  • Most federal websites or social media accounts we link to from our county website will not be actively managed during the shutdown. View  this federal government webpage for a list of services available during the shutdown.
An immediate impact in the Alexandria area will be less traffic on Route 1, especially around Fort Belvoir, said  Del. Scott Surovell (D-44th) in an email on Tuesday. Surovell pointed out that he tried to use the U.S. Census Bureau website to find out how many of his constituents are government employees and, of course, the site has been taken down due to the shutdown.

"Notwithstanding that, at least 20 percent of the workers in the 44th district are public employees and a substantial amount work for the federal government," Surovell said. "This is clearly going to impact their pocketbooks and their family budgets. It is outrageous that innocent civil servants are going to pay a financial price because a small faction of the House Republican Caucus refuses to accept the outcome of an election."

Although Fairfax County government is business as usual, Long said, like everyone, he has his concerns about the shutdown.

"My biggest concern is the 'domino' effect it will have on the local economy and the short-term uncertainty that will impact business decisions," Long wrote.

In his memo, Long also included unanswered questions that surround the impact of the shutdown:
  • The length of the shutdown.
  • Whether furloughed federal workers will retroactively get paid.
  • Will there be a delay in processing federal grants?
  • Will the loss of daily federal commuters impact Metro revenues?
  • Will the shutdown and loss of income lead to foreclosures?
  • Will there be more need for local social services for federal workers on the margin?
  • Will this federal government shutdown cause people to stop buying things and thus reduce our sales tax revenue?
  • Would a federal government shutdown impact business and sales tax revenue related to those segments of our business community that receive federal contracts?
  • How would a shutdown impact the bond market?
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors met Tuesday morning to discuss the impacts of the government shutdown. According to Long, "it is still unclear exactly what this will mean for Fairfax County. No detailed impact analysis has been done because there are still too many unknowns at this time."

After the meeting, McKay released the following statement Tuesday afternoon:

“We can only hope that this breakdown of governance is short-lived and that members of Congress get back to doing what we sent them to Washington to do.

While none of this is good for Fairfax County, we’ll come away relatively unscathed if the shutdown ends in a few days. Our board was prudent enough to set aside an $8 million sequestration reserve that we can tap into if necessary.

It’s the ripple effects of anything longer than a few days that are a concern. A lot of our federal workers and contractors are being hit with a double whammy — first sequestration furloughs and now the shutdown. Besides the impact on people’s lives, this is exactly the worst thing that can happen to a still fragile economy.

And we’ve got something even scarier than the federal shutdown — the possibility of a debt ceiling impasse. I’d like to believe that cooler heads will prevail by the time we get to mid-October, but after the last couple of days, I’m not so sure.

It’s really frustrating — all our County board can do is watch this drama play out.  We’re in close contact with our federal delegation — but it’s not our federal delegation that’s the problem.”

Long said Fairfax County has always done what's need to fulfill its financial obligations and increased service and resource needs. He said supervisors and other county employees will stay informed about the shutdown and any possible impacts it may have on the county's budget.

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