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Now What?

Fairfax County braces for “domino effect” of federal government shutdown.

While it’s still unclear how long the government will remain shuttered as the standoff between the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate continued Tuesday, Sept. 24, there are a few things Fairfax County residents can count on:

  • Fairfax County Government remains open for business.
  • Absentee voting, which started Tuesday, continues as scheduled.
  • Residents still have to pay car taxes by Oct. 7. As congressional leaders traded barbs over which party is to blame for the first government shutdown in 17 years, Fairfax County Executive Edward Long issued a statement regarding the impact of the shutdown on county employees and residents.

“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,” Long said in a memo emailed to county employees Tuesday.

Long said his biggest concern was the “domino effect” the shutdown will have on the local economy, and “the short-term uncertainty that will impact business decisions.”

“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.”

—Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee).

“There are many questions still unanswered,” Long said in the memo. “In the meantime, many of the people we serve are under increased stress and in need of enhanced county services.”

The government shutdown has forced about 800,000 federal workers off the job and suspended most non-essential federal programs and services.

The government stoppage also closed national parks, all Smithsonian museums, the U.S. Capitol visitor’s center and the National Zoo.

Fairfax County Government Services Open This Weekend

With one trip to the Fairfax County Government Center the weekend of Oct. 5 and 6, residents can pay their car tax, register to vote and then, if they feel like it, paint a pumpkin and ride a carousel.

Fall for Fairfax KidsFest takes place Saturday and Sunday, and several government services will be available this weekend. Here’s a list:

Saturday, Oct. 5, 8 a.m. to noon—The Department of Tax Administration will be open in Suite 223 for residents to pay their car (personal property) tax, which is due Monday, Oct. 7.

Saturday, Oct. 5, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.—The Office of Elections will be open in Suite 323 for residents to register to vote or check your voter registration status (deadline is Oct. 15), and for qualified registered voters to absentee vote for the Nov. 5 General Election. Reserved parking for voters is available in lot A near the main entrance to the Government Center.

Sunday, Oct. 6, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.—The DMV 2 Go customer service van will be parked outside the Government Center building on Sunday during Fall for Fairfax Kidsfest. DMV 2 Go offers all Virginia Department of Motor Vehicle services.

The Fairfax County Government Center is located at 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax.

For more information on Fairfax County Government services, go to www.fairfaxcounty.gov.

IN FAIRFAX COUNTY, Long noted that some county agencies have been directly impacted, and Langley ForkPark, which is on land owned by the National Park Service and managed by the Fairfax County Park Authority, is now closed and park activities are suspended.

At a committee meeting Tuesday morning, the Board of Supervisors discussed the shutdown and its potential impact on county resources and staffing.

After the meeting, Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee), whose district includes many federal employees and contractors, said that Fairfax County could come away “relatively unscathed if the shutdown ends in a few days.”

He said the board was “prudent enough to set aside an $8 million sequestration reserve that we can tap into if necessary.”

McKay echoed Long’s concerns about a domino effect in Fairfax County.

“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,” McKay said.

“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,” McKay said.

LONG SAID the county can’t do any detailed impact analysis, because “there are still too many unknowns at this time,” including:

  • 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?

“Fairfax County has a strong history of taking decisive actions to meet our financial obligations and increased service and resource needs, and we will continue to stay informed about this and other issues that could possibly impact the county budget,” Long said.