Posts tagged with "Government Shutdown":

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FEMA’s flood insurance program continues through shutdown after lobbying by real estate industry

The night before President Donald Trump announced the federal government shutdown, he signed into law a stopgap bill that would reauthorize FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). "Adversarial journalism" outlet The Intercept reported on the bill and its potential connections to the nation's real estate interests.  Enacted in 1968, the NFIP was established in order to protect homes built on federally designated floodplains. Getting insurance through the program is a prerequisite for banks in providing mortgages to individuals buying relevant property. When FEMA announced on December 26 that it could not continue work, enter into contracts, or spend federal dollars because of the shutdown, many real estate interest groups got upset about the NFIP interruption. The Intercept reported the president and Congress essentially forced FEMA to carry on issuing certifications after these parties cried out over the estimated 40,000 coastal home closings that would be lost per month without the service. The National Association of Realtors, among others, made it clear that shuttering this program during the shutdown would be a detrimental loss to the real estate business in the U.S.
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The government shutdown is hurting construction, trade, and manufacturers

Now in its third week, the partial government shutdown is proving extremely tough for not only direct federal employees but also outside contractors who work with and rely on funding from U.S. agencies. In New York alone, that means big-name organizations like the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and smaller businesses helping with capital construction efforts throughout the five boroughs. It’s estimated that over 50,000 federal contract employees in the New York metropolitan area are out of work and pay with no end in sight. While some organizations aren't running at all, others are still forcing people to work but without hope of immediate reimbursement. For example, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on Sunday the MTA could lose up to $150 million each month in federal funds as long the shutdown remains. This would halt major track repair work still ongoing after Hurricane Sandy and further construction on the Second Avenue Subway, according to the New York Post. This would happen because the General Fund, managed by the U.S. Bureau of Fiscal Service, is currently compromised, meaning companies working on state and city projects sponsored through the Federal Transit Administration’s capital investment grants program will see a slow-down in reimbursement. New York will be forced to pay out-of-pocket for the above subway improvements and work on the Select Bus Service lines, among other things. Because most public building and infrastructure construction projects in New York City are managed and funded by local government agencies, work will carry on. But that doesn’t mean it will all run as smoothly as expected. As weeks pass on, it will likely become increasingly difficult to import the necessary building materials selected for these construction projects. This is not only because of President Trump’s trade war but because of international shipping delays and a slow-down in safety checks through other agencies. The Federal Maritime Commission is closed and cannot smoothly regulate cargo clearance or port activity. In addition, hazardous materials being imported into the United States might be held up as all port investigators within the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission have been furloughed. What’s more, the Commerce Department can’t process requests from manufacturing companies who want an exemption from Trump’s metal tariffs. These are all big issues for U.S.-based manufacturers that can’t plan for the year ahead if they don’t have an accurate estimate of how much important imported materials will cost them and how long those products will take to reach them. Trump plans to make a televised, prime-time address tonight to discuss what he calls a humanitarian crisis at the U.S. Southern border. It’s unclear whether he’ll give an actual timeline for getting the government up and running again, though he’s repeatedly said he won’t cancel the shutdown until Congress gives him the full $5.6 billion needed to build his border wall. Until then, contractors in every city and state will have to make do with potential delays and money coming from their own bank accounts.
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Waste is piling up in national parks thanks to government shutdown

As the nationwide federal government shutdown enters its second week, the country’s national parks and historical monuments are straining under increasing quantities of trash and human waste. Because many sites have remained at least partially open during the shutdown despite a lack of National Park Service staff, trash is not being picked up, bathrooms are filling to capacity with human waste, and visitors are running wild. Small groups of volunteers and local businesses have stepped in to fill some of the staffing gaps by donating toiletries and by helping to clean and sanitize bathrooms, but it has not proven to be enough to prevent widespread disorder. The Los Angeles Times reported that illegal camping activities have increased in Joshua Tree National Park outside Los Angeles, where hundreds of thousands of visitors frequent the park during the busy holiday season. According to the report, visitors have lit illegal fires in the park and in some instances, have strung Christmas lights from the park’s namesake Joshua trees, a spiky species of yucca that can reach 40 feet in height and only grows in the Mojave Desert. Joshua Tree National Park closed to visitors on Wednesday due to the sordid conditions. In nearby Death Valley National Park, local concessionaires have picked up where the Park Service left off and are currently maintaining the park’s trash and bathroom facilities. https://twitter.com/schwellenbach/status/1080462580114747392?s=21 Unlike previous shutdowns, local and state authorities across the country have enacted contingency plans to keep parks and historical sites open during the current impasse, a practice that has helped keep local businesses dependent on park traffic afloat but has left the parks open to unmitigated destruction. Joe De Luca, a sales associate at Nomad Ventures in the town of Joshua Tree told The Washington Post, “The parks are supposed to be heritage sites for generation after generation. I would rather they close than be damaged.” The Daily News reported that Yosemite National Park in Northern California was forced to close this week after visitors were found defecating beside roads in the park. In Utah, the Arches and Canyonlands National Parks were also forced to close because no one was around to plow snowed-in roads, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. The shutdown comes as scandal-plagued Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke officially steps down. There is hope yet, however. A new Democratic majority is taking office in the House of Representatives on Thursday and is widely expected to pass a new funding bill to reopen the government.
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Government shutdown over border wall could drag on well into the new year

The United States is entering the thirteenth day of a partial government shutdown after Congress failed to reach an agreement before the December 21st deadline, with President Trump promising to veto any bill that did not include $5 billion for a border wall. On Wednesday, January 2, Trump shot down a $2.5 billion compromise bill proposed by his own vice president Mike Pence, as well as a compromise suggested by Senate Republicans that would couple border wall funding with DACA legislation offering deportation relief and work visas to young undocumented immigrants who had been brought to the United States as children. These rejections follow last week's failure to reach an agreement in Congress to stop the shutdown, with House Republicans shooting down a Democratic attempt to fund the government in the short term. This leaves nine federal agencies shuttered, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Transportation, alongside the Departments of Agriculture, Justice, Treasury, Commerce, Homeland Security, Interior, and State. FEMA announced it would be unable to process flood insurance policies, thus affecting home sales, while many workers, including Forest Service firefighters, TSA employees, air traffic controllers, and Customs and Border Protection agents have to report for work without being paid. The effect is also being felt in the country's national parks, which have been kept open without the workers to maintain them, overwhelming trash and sanitation systems. All told, approximately 800,000 federal employees and the people who rely on them are affected, with roughly 350,000 workers furloughed without pay. That border wall funding is at the center of the current shutdown is perhaps not surprising. Trump has long signaled that the border wall is the hill on which he has planted his flag. But a look at the past several years of failed negotiations on the issue between the White House and Congress, even a Republican-led one, shows just how malleable the definition of the border wall is. Even for Trump, whose cheery Christmas message was a promise that the shutdown would continue until the border wall was funded, the form of the wall has shifted from one composed of solid concrete to a transparent one to "artistically designed steel slats." Beyond the rhetoric of the current showdown, however, over the past two years, only 6 percent of the $1.7 billion allocated for the border wall has been expended by the administration. Tests of the latest prototypes also cast doubt on their effectiveness and sheer feasibility, considering the terrain and environments the wall is expected to traverse. On Thursday, when Democrats gain control of the House, they are expected to approve two bills that would halt the shutdown and maintain current levels of border security funding for measures at the U.S.–Mexico border to the tune of $1.3 billion. This funding is only designated for improving existing segments of fencing and enhancing surveillance capacities. Are the existing fences already part of the so-called border wall? What would Trump's envisioned border wall bring to the existing barriers of sheet metal, barbed-wire-topped metal fencing, and concrete columns? But it remains to be seen whether Trump will approve those bills or extend his costly political standoff. For perspective, the 16-day government shutdown in 2013 cost taxpayers millions, with $2.5 billion in back pay given to furloughed workers and $70 million lost from national park revenue alone.
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October Architecture Billings Slow After Months of Strong Figures

After a three-month streak of positive growth, the Architecture Billings Index revealed a small dip in the demand for design services. The ABI score slid down from 54.3 in September to 51.6 in October (any score above 50 indicates an increase). AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker said that the tumultous political climate—read Government Shutdown—contributed to the drop in activity last month. “There continues to be a lot of uncertainty surrounding the overall U.S. economic outlook and therefore in the demand for nonresidential facilities, which often translates into slower progress on new building projects,” said Baker. “That is particularly true when you factor in the federal government shutdown that delayed many projects that were in the planning or design phases.” October was a month of mixed results for architects across the country. Numbers rose slightly in the the South, jumping from 54.1 in September up to 54.4 in October. The Midwest also came out strong climbing to 51.6 from 51. The West, though, took a bit of a nosedive, falling from 60.6 to 55.9. The Northeast (49.7) also didn't fare quite as well as the previous month. There was a surge of multi-family and residential projects last month. The sector climbed up a couple of points from 55.6 to 57. Meanwhile figures showed a decline for the other sectors: commercial/industrial (53.7), mixed practice (53.2), and institutional (50.2). The rise in new projects inquiry, however, bodes well for the future—moving from 58.6 to 61.5 last month.