Bay Area assessing impact of federal government shutdown

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By Bay City News Service

The federal government shutdown began early this morning after Congress failed to pass a budget by a deadline of midnight Monday, and today many Bay Area residents are still gauging how the shutdown will affect them.

One of the most obvious impacts is to those who were planning trips to National parks, which are closed — including Alcatraz Island, Fort Point and Fort Baker, Lands End and Muir Woods National Monument.

Visitor centers like the Lands End Lookout are not open, and the parks’ websites are not being maintained.

Those who had purchased boat trips to Alcatraz will be given refunds or can take a 90-minute Bay tour instead for the same price. Those trips leave from Pier 33 and will be “Alcatraz-focused” but passengers will not be able to get onto the island.

About 5,000 Alcatraz trips had been previously booked for today, according to Denise Rasmussen, director of sales and marketing for Alcatraz Cruises.

To lift disappointed tourists’ spirits, the San Francisco bar Gold Dust Lounge at Fisherman’s Wharf will be offering two-for-one drink specials to those holding tickets for Alcatraz cruises.

The drink discount will be offered “until Republicans to sober up,” bar publicist Lee Houskeeper said, tongue-in-cheek.

Yosemite National Park, where many Bay Area residents head for camping and hiking, is closed today with most staff furloughed. Visitors who are already in Yosemite are required to leave by Thursday afternoon.

Ironically, today is the 123rd anniversary of the park’s creation, and Google is saluting the quiet milestone with a “Google Doodle” on the search engine’s homepage.

The federal shutdown is only affecting services deemed “non-essential.”

Post offices will still be open, security checkpoints at airports will still be operating, and air traffic controllers will stay on the job. Military personnel will remain on duty and will still be paid.

Agencies that deal in national security, public safety, and “essential” programs such as Social Security will remain operating to some extent during the shutdown.

The last federal shutdown began at the end of 1995 and lasted 21 days.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said thousands of vulnerable residents could be affected by the closure of the SF Housing Authority, which is run by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

He said those who depend on subsidized food and nutrition programs could also be affected, and pointed out that federal funding supports many city operations such as public safety, homeland security, housing, and health and human services.

SF Housing Authority spokeswoman Rose Dennis said people who live at the city’s 48 public housing sites are concerned about the shutdown and “have anxiety.”

She said all operations are running on reserve funding starting today, but that “a prolonged situation might have a far-reaching ramification.”

For example, she said, the shutdown could eventually cause delays in moving people off waiting lists to receive public housing.

“If this gets delayed or prolonged, it will start to impact our operations and primary functions,” Dennis said.

“We’ll do everything we can to reassure our tenants we have their backs,” she said.

Social Security Administration workers are gathering this afternoon at the Eastmont Mall in Oakland to urge residents to pressure their Congressional representatives to end the shutdown.

(Copyright 2013 Bay City News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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