The agreement between Congress and the president to reopen the government may have averted total disaster, but the two-week shutdown had an enormous negative impact on North Carolina.
Nationally, the shutdown took $24 billion out of the economy, according to a report by Standard & Poors released Wednesday, Oct. 16. The report also found that the shutdown has shaved at least 0.6 percentage points off of fourth-quarter gross domestic product, the report stated.
How much of the economic hit came in North Carolina was not immediately clear, however it is certain that many in the Tar Heel state were negatively affected. On Oct. 8, North Carolina became the only state in the nation to stop benefits from the federal Women Infants and Children (WIC) program, which allows low-income mothers to receive vouchers to buy baby formula and nutritional food. The state reversed the decision before the week was out, however the short ban did mean a dip in spending at local supermarkets and grocery stores. About 350 WIC participants a day get vouchers from Piedmont Health in Carrboro and the voucher stoppage “hurt local businesses,” said Piedmont Health CEO Brian Toomey.
On Oct.15, North Carolina became the first state in the nation to cut off benefits from Work First, the state’s welfare program, as well as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The halt was for processing November applications, so it is uncertain how many were actually affected. But with more than 20,000 people receiving monthly benefits through Work First and more than 70,000 children affected by TANF subsidies, according the Reuters news service, the halt likely caused at least widespread anxiety.
In the Triangle, almost all of the 1,000 workers at the Environmental Protection Agency office in Research Triangle Park were sent home without pay due to the shutdown. Workers who staged a protest Oct. 10 in downtown Raleigh said the action was forcing them to spend less.
“We’ve been eating from the freezer and taking less trips to the grocery store,” said Scott Voorhees, who works for the Environmental Protection Agency office in Research Triangle Park.
Beyond the financial impact, the shutdown had a big impact on productivity. Approximately 50 percent of the more than 14,500 civilian employees at Fort Bragg were furloughed, according to a press release issued by the military base. The release detailed a long list of services that would be discontinued during the shutdown, including GIS/mapping support, wildlife/endangered species management, Survivor Outreach Services, Army Substance Abuse Program Prevention Services and the Suicide Prevention Program.
Yet to be seen is whether the shutdown will result in a downgrading of the United States' credit rating. Republican activists from the Tea Party, which instigated the shutdown by refusing to extend budget authority for the federal government unless the Affordable Care Act was delayed, vowed to try again. Those claims came despite the clear failure of the tactic; not only was the act, also known as Obamacare, not delayed, but support for Republicans sank to an all-time low and support for Obamacare actually rose during the shutdown, according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.