Shutdown Affects St. Louis Workers and Attractions

Oct 1, 2013

A sign on the Gateway Arch entrance indicating that it is closed due to the federal government shutdown.
A sign on the Gateway Arch entrance indicating that it is closed due to the federal government shutdown.
Credit (Bill Greenblatt, UPI)

 Updated 3:35 p.m.

The government shutdown will affect thousands of federal employees in the St. Louis area. But most of them were expected to show up for work today.

Steve Hollis is the president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 3354 at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He says workers are being told just to sit and wait.

"Most employees received an email saying stay at your desk, don't do any work because your work is not funded, but stay at your desk until we get official notice from Washington D.C to release you," Hollis said. "So, most employees are still sitting at their desks, twiddling their thumbs for the present time."

Hollis says the shutdown will cost the St. Louis economy about $5 million in wages per day.

Meantime, among the offices and facilities idled Tuesday were the Gateway Arch and the Old Courthouse in downtown St. Louis. The Arch draws about four million tourists every year, making it Missouri's largest tourist attraction excluding casinos.

Many other government-run facilities and offices around the state are closed, too, including campgrounds, boat ramps and visitors centers operated by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Corps Sspokesman Mike Peterson said a lack of funding is forcing it to close recreation areas at five St. Louis area lakes with more than 1,500 camp sites.

“Right now, we are in the process of clearing out camp sites," Peterson said.  "Visitors that are camping are going to have to leave by close of business tomorrow.  Our rangers are out there right now helping campers to clear out and then some of them will indeed be furloughed, as well.”

Peterson says camping and boating at the Corps’ recreation areas supports more than 6,500 non-federal jobs and is worth $400 million to the regional economy.

He says the Corps’ essential functions, including dredging to keep commerce flowing on the Mississippi River, will continue. 

In Washington, D.C., the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill has furloughed all but five of her employees, and closed many of her district offices. Her Republican counterpart, Roy Blunt, deemed his employees essential, and all remain on the job.

Congresswoman Ann Wagner posted on Twitter a picture of a letter she sent to the chief administrative officer of the U.S. House requesting that her her pay be withheld during a government shutdown.