Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content Shutdown was felt in many ways in Colorado Springs region, and it could have been worse

By Tom Roeder Updated: October 17, 2013 at 6:59 am

The Pikes Peak region felt the full force of government shutdown on Oct. 1 and things got easier from there.

Even the deal to end the budget impasse makes things sunnier here. Colorado Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet added a provision to the bill ending the shutdown that authorizes an extra $350 million in federal highway cash to repair Front Range flood damage on roads.

The first week of the government impasse was the hardest for the Pikes Peak region. The shutdown forced about 6,000 Defense Department workers off the job for a week. It closed commissaries and limited services on the region's military bases.

But the Pentagon changed course days later, citing the Republican sponsored Pay Our Military Act. Services were restored and all but a handful of Defense Department civilians returned to work Oct. 7.

The shutdown would have had a huge impact in Colorado Springs if Congress hadn't acted to shield military pay.

An estimated one worker in five here is on the federal payroll, and the overwhelming majority of those federal workers are in military-related jobs.

One feared impact of the shutdown was averted by state officials who agreed to foot the bill for National Guard flood relief efforts until a federal budget accord could be reached.

Local veterans felt shutdown impacts. Claims backlogs at the Department of Veterans Affairs increased during the shutdown by an estimated 2,000 per day, prompting groups including the American Legion to call for a solution.

The shutdown impacted how people play in Colorado. Federal park lands and lands run by the Interior Department were closed, including the Florissant Fossil Beds.

Some national parks, including Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park, were reopened with state money in a deal reached last week.

Workers at the SuperMax federal prison in Florence and other federal law enforcement workers stayed on the job, but were guaranteed pay during the shutdown.

Furloughed workers and those who stayed on the job were guaranteed pay in the budget deal reached Wednesday.

Economists said that they couldn't judge the shutdown's fleeting effect because the biggest impact was a loss of confidence in federal funding rather than a permanent loss of jobs.

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