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Federal Shutdown Impacts Arkansas As It Stretches into 2019

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by Jeremy Peppas

As the partial federal government shutdown continues into the new year, its impact, so far, has been limited in Arkansas.

Jay Chesshir, the President and CEO of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, is optimistic the government would reopen soon.

“They’re talking,” he says of leaders from the Democratic and Republican parties. “The good news is that there appears to be some movement to finding a resolution.”

He also notes that one of the reasons why the shutdown’s impact has been limited is its timing.

“Around the holidays, some of those agencies were already closed,” he says. “But there’s a ripple effect when that flow of resources starts to slow.”

One resource that’s slowed is the Arkansas Small Business Administration, which went dark with this Dec. 26 notice on Twitter, “Due to the lapse of government funding, SBA will remain inactive until further notice. We apologize for any inconvenience and we look forward to assisting you when we return.”

Arkansas SBA has 17 training sessions scheduled for January, with one for veterans on Jan. 9.

Its organizer at North Little Rock’s Camp Robinson was unaware the SBA was among the agencies furloughed due to the shutdown. She told a reporter, when called, she was grateful to learn of the closure and that she would have to go to the training site the day of the session and let attendees know it was cancelled.

Not all small business training has been cancelled though. The Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center, with offices at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock and other college campuses around the state said, through a spokeswoman, “our offices are open” and scheduled events “are proceeding as planned.”

In an interview with U.S. Rep. French Hill (R-2nd) on KUAR, Hill said before the shutdown happened that a shutdown, “throws off the good work people do every day” and that a shutdown, as a general matter, wasn’t “a good issue.”

Among the other agencies impacted were the National Park Service as it furloughed its staff. Meaning of its 20,000 workers, some 16,000 have been sent home and have not been able to service national parks, like the one in Hot Springs. Volunteers there have stepped up to assist with trash removal as has other volunteer groups at national parks both large and small around the country.

Also closed is the historic site at Little Rock Central High School, that is operated by the Park Service, as well as the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, that is part of the National Archives.

A visit to its website, www.clintonlibrary.gov, brings up a pop-up message that says, “Due to the shutdown of the Federal Government, National Archives facilities are closed, websites and social media are not being updated or monitored, and activities are canceled, with some exceptions.”

The popular 42 Bar and Table restaurant inside the library is still open though, along the Clinton Museum Store. Both are offering “shutdown specials.”

At issue for the shutdown, already among the longest in U.S. history, is funding for a wall along the United States-Mexico border, that was a campaign promise by President Donald J. Trump, who has requested $5.7 billion for its construction. Critics note that a wall, along with fencing, already exists along parts of the border and that the Rio Grande River, that gives Texas much of its distinctive shape as stretches from El Paso to the west, and Brownsville to the east where it then dumps into the Gulf of Mexico, forms a natural barrier to crossing on foot.

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