How The Government Shutdown Is Affecting Mainers So Far

Jan 4, 2019

As the partial federal government shutdown heads into its third week, it's causing some headaches around Maine, headaches that could turn into widespread disruption.

One of the buses at Acadia National Park. Park attendance is relatively low this time of year, MacDonald says, but planning for new transportation initiatives and other activities essential to Acadia's future are on hold.
Credit Flickr

The gates at Acadia National Park remain open this weekend, a contrast to the last federal shutdown in the fall of 2013.

“I think it reflects the political heat they got and the bad publicity they got from the public saying, 'I can't believe I can't access my park,'” says David MacDonald, president of the nonprofit Friends of Acadia.

MacDonald says most of the park's year round staff of nearly 100 has been furloughed, with the exception of law enforcement. Park attendance is relatively low this time of year, he adds, but planning for new transportation initiatives and other activities essential to Acadia's future are on hold.

"They've put park staff in a very difficult position, saying 'yes, they're open to the public,’ but, you know, we're only giving you skeleton crews to support that public and protect the resource."

"I lost $85,000 in 2013 because of that shutdown," says State Senator Mike Carpenter.

Carpenter runs a horse and buggy concession at Acadia. He called on his colleagues in Augusta this week to prepare for economic dislocations this time around as well.

"As we go about our business today, small businesses will be going bankrupt today, tomorrow and the next day, as long as the shutdown goes on,” Carpenter says. “Because a lot of small businesses do depend on proximity to governmental entities or contracts with governmental entities."

A simple lack of access to government services is creating pockets of unhappiness around Maine. Some real estate deals are being delayed, because government loans, or federally-backed flood insurance documents, or IRS approvals can't be completed.

In Hancock, Leslie Harlow's efforts to re-open a fish-smoking operation this week have been stymied. Sullivan Harbor Farms smokehouse, she says, recently got a needed inspection from the Food and Drug Administration. It went well, she says, and she was expecting final approval this week.

"Now with their shutdown and the uncertainty of how much time this is going to be, we're sitting in limbo,” Harlow says. “And I have employees that don't have work, and I have fish suppliers that are sitting on the side and wondering when I can be back in business and work with them. And I am sure that the FDA inspectors that I worked with, who are quite reasonable, are sitting around on furlough just as frustrated as I am."

Back at Acadia, winter-time park-goers are bracing for a snowstorm that's brewing for next week. At that point, the gates could indeed be closed because if the shutdown is still on, there will be no workers to plow the roads.