Alexandria bracing for impact as government shutdown looms

A sailboat on the Potomac River (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Alexandria is bracing for a federal government shutdown at midnight on Sunday (Oct. 1).

The city is preparing a package of services for impacted city residents, should Congress not come to an agreement to continue funding the government by then, Assistant City Manager Sarah Taylor told City Council on Tuesday.

“There is less and less optimism that the current political environment on Capitol Hill will make it possible to avoid avoid a government shutdown,” Taylor said. “Should there be a shutdown, city staff is prepared to deploy resources and communications to assist those in our community who are impacted by such a shutdown.”

In the event of a shutdown, federal employees will get their October 4 paychecks, but not their October 18 paychecks.

Mayor Justin Wilson said that federal contractors will bear the brunt of the shutdown.

“Nine times out of 10 in these shutdowns, the federal employees end up getting paid, the contractors do not,” Wilson said. “We hope that Congress does their job, hopefully before Oct. 1 at midnight.”

Taylor said that city staff would also have to step in to pick up trash at Jones Point Park (70 Jones Point Drive), which is a National Park Service property.

“The city may need to step in and provide trash pickup or provide patrols additional patrols there if there are no rangers patrolling the property,” she said. “There are a wide range of services that could be disrupted for every for any Alexandrian, from travel delays to delayed passport applications to the closure of or limited amenities at federal facilities, including museums and parks.”

Taylor said that the shutdown may also imperil federal nutrition programs like WIC and SNAP, which are fully funded through October.

“If the shutdown lasts until November, SNAP benefits could be reduced, incomplete, or disrupted,” she said. “USDA should have enough WIC funds to last through October, but the program’s funding in November is also unclear.”

Restaurants helping out

As with the last shutdown, a number of Alexandria businesses are offering specials to potentially impacted federal employees.

Pork Barrel BBQ (2312 Mount Vernon Avenue) is offering a free pulled pork sandwich to federal employees who bring their IDs to the restaurant. The deal is limited to one sandwich per day per federal employee.

“We’ve done this since the government shutdown of 2013,” Pork Barrel BBQ owner Blackburn said. “Come Monday, 25% of Alexandria might not be going to work, and they need a break.”

Additionally, all Taco Bamba locations (with the exception of Falls Church, which doesn’t have a bar) will offer all-day happy hour ($5 drinks and $5 Jeffreys, their signature crispy meat spring roll) Mondays through Fridays with a government ID during the shutdown.

In the event of a shutdown, Visit Alexandria told ALXnow they will release a list of other businesses offering specials to impacted federal employees on Sunday.