When the federal government shut down Monday at midnight, the impact was felt all across the United States, including here in Summit County. The Summit County Health Department's Women, Infants and Children program was to cease operations Tuesday and the U.S. Forest Service has also closed its offices.
"I find it absolutely incredible," Summit County Health Department Director Richard Bullough said about the legislators in Washington, D.C., who triggered the shutdown. "I'm just stunned by it."
The impact of the shutdown may have hit the Summit County Health Department hardest. The Women, Infants and Children program (WIC) that the Department operates is 100 percent federally-funded. WIC is a Special Supplemental Nutrition Program "that serves pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women, infants and children up to age 5 who live in Summit County and who meet income guidelines."
There are three WIC offices in Summit County - in Coalville, Kamas and Park City - and they were all scheduled to shutter their doors as of 5 p.m. Tuesday. They will remain closed until federal funding is restored.
On Tuesday, WIC ceased issuing new food vouchers to the mothers and soon-to-be mothers WIC assists. The Summit County Health Department was highly concerned on Monday that vendors would be told to no longer accept already-issued vouchers. However, after a conference call with the Utah Governor's office Monday evening, the Governor's office "agreed to allow vouchers already issued to be accepted in stores" and to cover any resulting shortfall, according to Bullough.
Bullough said he was floored by the developments when reached by The Park Record on Monday, as it became apparent that the potential shutdown was, in fact, going to happen.
"It's a tragedy, in my opinion," Bullough said about the shutdown's impact on the "disparately affected population that is very much at need."
WIC has already been dealing with monetary pressures over the past two years. In 2013, the program has endured a $45,000 cut to its operating budget. In 2014, WIC is scheduled to undergo another $15,000 cut.
Forest Service also affected:
The U.S. Forest Service has ceased its regular operations. If you stop by the Heber-Kamas Ranger District in Kamas, you'll be turned away. The voicemail message is short and succinct: "Our office is closed at this time. We are on furlough due to lapse in federal government funding."
Fuelwood permits and camping passes will not be issued. Rangers will not be available for any ordinary requests.
On Tuesday, the Forest Service issued a statement: "All facilities, including Forest Service offices and developed recreational areas such as campgrounds and picnic areas are closed. General areas of the National Forest where you may drive, hike, hunt and fish remain accessible."
The Forest Service falls under the purview of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, whose Contingency Plan for Agency Close Down Procedures "assumes that some Agency activities will continue that are essential to protect life and property." Such activities include fire suppression, emergency and natural disasters response and "law enforcement personnel and all necessary equipment costs to protect life and property."
The Summit County Sheriff's Office has insulated itself from being affected by the shutdown. "We have taken painstaking steps to see to it that we're not dependent on federal monies," said Sheriff David Edmunds. "It's not going to affect us in any way, shape or form."