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Shutdown would cut off federal parks, records

By Leila Fujimori

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 05:16 a.m. HST, Apr 07, 2011


Novana Agas of Ewa Beach was at the Prince Kuhio Federal Building yesterday, submitting an application for a passport.

“My mother just passed away yesterday (in the Philippines),” said Agas, 44. She is arranging a hasty trip home, and will be able to pick up her passport today.

Agas was fortunate to get her paperwork in when she did. The federal government faces a shutdown at 6:01 p.m. tomorrow Hawaii time if lawmakers cannot reach a budget agreement.

Hawaii residents would find national parks closed, their federal tax refunds stalled, a freeze on environmental reports needed by construction projects, and no processing of federal business and home loans, among other effects.

Not counting postal workers (who would not be affected by a shutdown), Hawaii had more than 24,500 civilian federal employees as of December, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management said.

While many would continue to work in jobs deemed “essential” such as law enforcement, public health, transportation, Medicare and Social Security, thousands of federal employees would be furloughed until Congress funds the government again.

At the USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center yesterday, Los Angeles visitor Jeri Smith, 79, said, “I’d be very disappointed” if she were not able to visit the memorial, which is Hawaii’s top visitor attraction.

Jim Moore, 56, of Wichita, Kan., said of the impasse in Washington: “You can look at it two different ways. We have to cut back spending, but government has to function. There’s too many important functions of government, so there has to be compromise.”

About 5,000 people visit the Arizona Memorial National Park each day. Other national parks here include Haleakala National Park on Maui and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island.

“It’s a big impact on local communities,” said David Barna, chief spokesman for the National Park Service.

Ben Bautista, a tour guide with Polynesian Adventure Tours, said the company brings in about 200 visitors each day to the Arizona Memorial, and that a closure would mean fewer tours and less work for employees.

“Folks won’t be making their hours,” he said.

Gabie Holy, 21, a greeter for Pearl Harbor Historic Sites, said: “That would hurt me, yeah. That would be a downer.”

The Internal Revenue Service would continue to process electronic returns, but paper returns would sit unopened.

Mary Lou Morgan, 45, of Ewa Beach was at the counter of the Honolulu IRS office yesterday, asking for assistance and documents.

“If it was closed today, we would be in big trouble because I needed records to show my lender,” Morgan said. “We’re buying a house.”

Other offices that would be closed include Customs & Border Protection, the Small Business Administration and the Federal Housing Administration.

Federal courts would probably remain open for two weeks in the event of a government shutdown, Chief U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway said.

Robert Lillis, president of machinists union Local 1998, said they have not received word of whether his members who work at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, Tripler Army Medical Center or Schofield Barracks will continue to stay on the job.

Star-Advertiser reporters William Cole and Ken Kobayashi contributed to this report.






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