Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What a government shut down would mean for Penn Quarter

A potential federal government shutdown looms, but what does it mean for Penn Quarter?

The many public museums in our neighborhood will probably shut down, as they did in 1995.  Even though the Smithsonian has an endowment and private funds, during the last government shut down they closed their doors.  The private museums, such as the Crime & Punishment Museum and the Spy Museum, will probably remain open.

Of course, it is Cherry Blossom season, and that presents a host of unknowns.   The street festival will probably still continue, the Washington Business Journal reports, because it does not take place on federal land or involve the National Park Service.  The parade is less certain.  "The short answer is, we don't know yet," National Park Service spokesman Bill Line told the Business Journal. "It depends on the extent of what Congress does."

Of course many of the offices in our neighborhood either are government offices or serve the government.  This could mean a decreased population during the workday, which could hurt local businesses.  It also means there will probably be fewer tourists, and almost certainly the metro will be less crowded.

Federal buildings in and near Penn Quarter, from the Business Journal.

However, even the fate of WMATA is in peril.  While many D.C. residents will be out of work, there is a chance city government will shut down, too.  D.C. city money comes from local taxes, but is re-appropriated back to the city by Congress.  Meaning without Congress, there may be no city funds. 

In 1995, though, according to WTOP's Mark Seagraves, the city was exempted from the shutdown.  The mayor has designated all city council staff as essential, but the White House's Office of Management and Budget has taken issue with that decree. 

The Washington Post says if the two sides in Congress and the President don't come to an agreement by tonight, then the government will likely shut down.  That's because the time is needed for the legislation to work its way through both chambers and get signed by the President before the money runs out on Friday.  However, if the agreement comes late, the two sides could agree to an extension of current funding levels for a few days.

UPDATE: We talked to WMATA about their plans during a government shutdown: here (hint: there aren't many plans).

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