Shutdown impacts ripple through area

Impacts of the partial federal government shutdown continue to roll in, with some businesses, social service agencies and nonprofits taking steps to help displaced workers.

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment reported that Larimer County was among the most-impacted counties in terms of unemployment claims. The county ranked third in the state for claims filed by federal workers in Colorado, according to figures released Friday by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. Eleven percent of the 1,642 claims filed since the shutdown began came from Larimer, CDLE said. By Monday, that total figure had risen to 1,826, the department said.

Estes Park puts capital projects on hold

Especially impacted is the town of Estes Park at the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, which is feeling the impact both from the park’s furloughed workers and a decline in visitation to the park, which is closed to vehicular traffic.

At a meeting Tuesday morning of the Estes Valley Partners for Commerce board of directors, Town Manager Frank Lancaster said the town has put all of its capital projects on hold. Jon Nicholas, president of the Estes Park Economic Development Corp., said the town’s decision was made because it doesn’t “want to find out later that we’ve had a sales-tax revenue impact and aren’t prepared for it.”

Nicholas also said this is the first week in which businesses in the tourist town are starting to feel more visible impacts from the shutdown.

Several businesses in the town are offering the park’s furloughed workers a helping hand.

Antonio’s Real New York Pizza donated a $500 gift card to provide food for those in need, and is inviting other businesses to contribute to it. Furloughed workers can get a free coffee drink at Kind Coffee; You Need Pie! Too café is offering discounts on food; Rock Cut Brewing Co. is providing free beers; Rocky Mountain Health Club is offering free classes; and Affinity Massage and Wellness Center is offering discounted 30- and 60-minute appointments.

Nicholas said Adam Shake, vice president of the Estes Park EDC, is setting up a Facebook page as an outreach to local businesses to help the workers from the national park and surrounding U.S. Forest Service.

Federal labs in various stages of closure

Federal labs, depending on their mission, are in various stages of shutdown. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with a lab in Boulder, is part of the Department of Commerce and posted this on its website: “Parts of the U.S. Government are closed. This site is being updated, however, only with furlough-related information to support NOAA employees; NOAA websites and social media channels necessary to protect lives and property are also being maintained.”

Federal employees on furlough are also advised, according to ethics guidelines posted on government websites, that they can’t take temporary employment in their fields if the employer has dealings with the agency. That includes temporary employment with universities that might have need for similar skills or experience.

Farmers impacted by USDA closure

Farmers who depend upon access to commodity information to inform their planting decisions are in limbo until the shutdown is over because of the shutdown of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The USDA did reopen several field service offices in order to process loans already in the works at the time of the shutdown. But new loans, including Section 502 home loan guarantees in rural areas, are uncertain as of this week. SNAP — Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or also known commonly as food stamps — has enough money to continue through February but will be out of money come March.

Banks step up to help

Several area banks and credit unions are taking steps to lend a helping hand.

Boulder-based Elevations Credit Union is allowing furloughed federal workers to skip a payment on outstanding consumer loans in good standing and is offering interest-free personal loans equal to the member’s monthly net pay that are payable after the shutdown ends.

We have seen strong adoption of our Government Assistance Furlough Plan, which has given us reassurance that many of our members do indeed need this type of assistance,” said Ray Lindley, Elevations’ chief operating officer, in an email to BizWest. “At this time we are comfortable with the volume of members coming to us for help, and we plan to serve as many as possible who are furloughed and need relief.”

Elevations has branches throughout the region in Boulder, Broomfield, Fort Collins, Lafayette, Longmont, Louisville and Loveland.

Glenwood Springs-based Alpine Bank, which tentatively plans to open a branch at 2735 Canyon Blvd. in Boulder on Feb. 4, announced today that it is offering federal workers loans that will be set up as ready-reserve credit lines. Payment won’t be due for six months after the shutdown ends, according to Allison Nadel, the bank’s assistant vice president and operations manager. The loans will be issued up to each borrower’s monthly net salary. Furloughed government employees who are not already Alpine Bank customers can open a Liberty checking account with Alpine and then obtain this loan.  

“This is the third time in the past 25 years that we have implemented this type of support to our valued federal employees. As always, we are honored to help,” said Bob Young, Alpine Bank’s founder and chairman. The bank previously extended support to furloughed federal workers in 1995-96 and 2013.

Access to retirement accounts

Relief for some federal employees also may be coming from Congress. U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., joined Reps. Pete Olson, R-Texas, and Don Beyer, D-Va., in introducing House Resolution 545, the Financial Relief for Feds Act. The bill would allow federal employees and contractors to withdraw funds from their retirement accounts without being penalized.

“One of my constituents mentioned this idea to me when I was in the district this past weekend, and I felt like it was a good way to help the hard-working men and women who work for our country be able to keep up with regular bills and expenses during this difficult time,” said Perlmutter. “Missing paychecks puts a terrible strain on households, and we cannot let this continued shutdown jeopardize the livelihoods of these federal workers and their families.”

The law would apply to furloughed federal employees, “essential” federal employees working without pay and contractors whose sole source of earned income is their federal contract. It would let them make withdrawals from their retirement savings accounts without the 10 percent penalty that normally applies. They’ll be allowed to recontribute the money to their accounts once the government reopens.

More basic assistance is coming from groups such as Louisville-based nonprofit Community Food Share, which offers mobile food pantries throughout the region. Because federal workers aren’t being paid, their lower combined gross monthly household income may make them eligible for the agency’s Emergency Food Assistance Program. More information and links to other resources are available at communityfoodshare.org/shutdown.

Boulder-based Big Red F Restaurant Group is offering free “furlough lunches” — a fixed menu, no substitutions — to government workers who can show an ID badge or other proof of employment, in an effort to “rally coworkers and gather around our tables, building togetherness in a time of weirdness.”

The lunches will be offered Mondays through Fridays as long as the shutdown lasts at the group’s restaurants, which include The Post Brewing Co. locations in Boulder, Lafayette and Longmont as well as Centro Mexican Kitchen, West End Tavern and Zolo Grill, all in Boulder.

Impacts of the partial federal government shutdown continue to roll in, with some businesses, social service agencies and nonprofits taking steps to help displaced workers.

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment reported that Larimer County was among the most-impacted counties in terms of unemployment claims. The county ranked third in the state for claims filed by federal workers in Colorado, according to figures released Friday by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. Eleven percent of the 1,642 claims filed since the shutdown began came from Larimer, CDLE said. By Monday, that total figure had risen to 1,826, the department said.

Estes Park puts capital projects on hold

Especially impacted is the town of Estes Park at the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, which is feeling the impact both from the park’s furloughed workers and a decline in visitation to the park, which is closed to vehicular traffic.

At a meeting Tuesday morning of the Estes Valley Partners for Commerce board of directors, Town Manager Frank Lancaster said the town has put all of its capital projects on hold. Jon Nicholas, president of the Estes Park Economic Development Corp., said the town’s decision was made because it doesn’t “want to find out later that we’ve had a sales-tax revenue impact and aren’t prepared for it.”

Nicholas also said this is the first week in which businesses in the tourist town are starting to feel more visible impacts from the shutdown.

Several businesses in the town are offering the park’s furloughed workers a helping…