Budget stalemate hanging over coast

From the The Brunswick News

Assessing the long-term effect of trainees being sent home from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and employees being furloughed because of a partial federal government shutdown is not easy.

Some 1,500 students have been sent home and 1,000 employees sidelined without pay because of the shutdown.

Don Mathews, economics professor at College of Coastal Georgia and director of the Coastal Georgia Center for Economic Analysis and Student Research, says some businesses located close to FLETC that rely on students and employees, will feel a direct effect and are.

Old Style Barbershop, in the shopping center at 1216 Chapel Crossing Road, Glynn County, opposite the main entrance of the facility, reported a 50 percent reduction in customers Wednesday. Sally's Cop Shop, in the same shopping plaza, reported losing about $1,000 a day because of the shutdown.

But just how much the county's economy might be reeling from the shutdown spurred by a disagreement between the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate - or, more specifically, between Democrats and Republicans over the Affordable Care Act - is more difficult to gauge. Republicans refuse to vote on a federal budget without a vote to delay the implementation of the act.

"I think it could be fairly significant," Mathews said of the impact of a shutdown that could potentially last more than a month.

The longer government workers are furloughed, the deeper the impact will be, he said.

If Congress ends the shutdown after only a week or two, the impact will be less.

If that compromise is only temporary, though, Mathews says the uncertainty felt by government workers and contractors could spread and make people leery of spending, "because you never know when this is going to happen again."

If there is any deep-seated concern in the community, Brunswick Mayor Bryan Thompson is not hearing or seeing it.

"I haven't personally heard if the impact is being felt yet," said Thompson, who gets around the community as mayor and as head of the Southeast Georgia Health System Foundation.

"However, if this shutdown drags on, it certainly will be felt, and felt strongly, throughout the city and county. A thousand FLETC employees would probably equate to $50 million to $60 million in annual salaries, or over $1 million less per week being fed into the local/regional economy," he hypothesized.

The impact in Camden County, where hundreds of civilian workers are furloughed from Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay and numerous contractors are idle, could be deeper.

"They are on the map down there pretty much because of that base," Mathews said.

Even the shutdown by the National Park Service of Cumberland Island National Seashore, a major tourism draw for St. Marys, is being felt by businesses.

Mardja Gray, owner of Goodbread House in downtown St. Marys, says October is one of her best months in the fall season, but not this year. About 75 percent of the guests at her bed and breakfast inn come to town to tour the historical and natural sites of the island, which is closed.

Matters could get worse, Mathews suggested.

Economists nationally have warned that an extended shutdown paired with another showdown about raising the U.S. debt ceiling could send the country into another Great Recession scenario.

Release Date: 10/5/2013
Source: The Brunswick News

By Local News