U.S. lawmakers appear at a standstill on avoiding $85 billion in automatic budget cuts that are to hit the federal government on Friday. The sequester cuts were created by lawmakers and the White House, and were slated to take effect unless they managed to arrive at a compromise U.S. government budget. The next politically-created fiscal crisis is a partial government shutdown at the end of March unless lawmakers act to prevent it by March 27.
The impacts will be felt in a variety of places, and in many different ways.
Jeff Mow, National Park Superintendent with KFNP, was asked to detail for us how the sequester might affect the national park in this area:
“”Like most of the NPS units here in AK, the actual impacts of sequestration at
Kenai Fjords National Park aren’t obvious at this time of year. Normally at this time of year we would have completed our seasonal hiring but due to the current hiring freeze we haven’t been able to make commitments to the bulk of our seasonal staff (approximately 25) , many of whom return year after year and are local Seward residents. In a normal year by the end of March we would have completed the hiring of another 15 seasonal employees. We don’t know how long the hiring freeze on seasonal staff will continue, but if it isn’t lifted by the end of March we will definitely be in a scramble to meet our commitments to our April program activities that include schools wanting education programs and some of our preparation work for the start of the visitor season.”
“Once the hiring freeze is lifted and we get seasonal staff on board, the impacts of the sequester will be minimal. By delaying hire of permanent positions, reducing travel, reducing supplies, etc, our summer operation will look pretty familiar. We may not have the depth in our staffing as we had last year, so at the height of summer we may have to cancel an activity or close a visitor center if someone gets sick. If March ends up being very snowy and we have a cool spring, we may be challenged to come up with funding to have Metco plow out the road to Exit Glacier before the end of the Memorial Day weekend.”
“Having to absorb the 5% over the next six months will definitely be challenging but we shouldn’t forget that we will still have 95% of our budget to meet the needs of the public and the park resources. Obviously for planning purposes we would have found different cuts to make if we had the entire year to absorb the reductions.”