Clock is ticking towards possible government shutdown on Friday

With so much of Hampton Roads' financial well-being tied up in defense spending, one local economist is concerned about the shutdown

NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC)-- Although lawmakers vow it won't happen, it could, and the clock is ticking towards another possible federal government shutdown.

The deadline? Midnight on Friday.

If the shutdown happens, it could have a huge effect on Hampton Roads. During the last government shutdown in 2013, a 21,000 civil servants were furloughed locally.

"When you take away that portion of my budget, it hurts. It really does," furloughed civil servant Jeff Collis told 13 News Now in 2013. "And I work paycheck to paycheck."

Although the workers were eventually reimbursed, during the time of the shutdown, they didn't know that, so local commerce came to a brief halt. Everything from pizzas, to cars, and houses.

The workers didn't buy any. They couldn't.

 "It affects everyone from restaurants to real estate to people who cut people's hair to grocery stores to automobile salesmen to jewelry stores," said Old Dominion University economics professor Bob McNab. "A long shut down reduces consumption."

McNab said he is worried.

"We're hopeful of avoiding a shutdown, but the odds are increasing," he said.

House Republicans introduced a bill over the weekend to prevent a government shutdown, but their stop-gap funding measure would last only until Dec. 22nd. This would create another shutdown scenario just days before Christmas.

Current funding to keep the government running is set to expire at midnight Friday unless Congress acts.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared Sunday, "There's not going to be a government shutdown. It's just not going to happen."

McNab hopes McConnell is right.

"About 40 percent of our economy is directly related to defense and the federal government.," he said.  "Anytime you have a disruption of defense spending, the Hampton Roads economy slows. If the federal government catches a cold, the Hampton Roads economy ends up the ICU."

McNab continued: "Having a shutdown is by no means odd news for Hampton Roads. A shutdown, we can weather fairly well, of one or two days, but if it extends into a week or two, there'd be real economic impact."

The 2013 shutdown lasted thirteen days. The Hampton Roads Planning District Commission estimated that it cost the region $6.3 million per day in lost wages.

All the uncertainty, includes this possible shutdown, and the still-lingering possibility of a return to sequestration budget cuts. The ODU Center fo Economic Analysis and Policy has downgraded its outlook for economic growth in the region, going from "optimistic" to "neutral."

© 2017 WVEC-TV


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