The Government Shutdown Really Sucks At Everglades National Park (PHOTOS)
MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 07: Letty Mendez (L) and Elsa DeVito wait for customers at Gator Grill which is on the road near the entrance to the Everglades National Park on October 7, 2013 in Miami, Florida. Elsa DeVito, the owner, said she has seen an 85 percent drop in business since the park was closed as the United States House and Senate are into day 7 of not being able to agree on a bill to fund the United States government. National Parks around the nation are closed along with other federal ser | Getty
As the federal government shutdown enters Day Eight, the grim reality hits hard in and near Everglades National Park.
"We usually get people from tour buses who came to the national park. The buses are 55 people, and I lost two of them a day; that's 110 people. That's probably about $2,500 in revenue out the window," Miller said.
Swiss tourists Christoph Zuercher and Michael Zuercher discovered the park was closed on October 7 when they arrived at the entrance to find Park Ranger Mirta Maltes behind gates. Visitors to the Everglades spend $147 million each year in surrounding communities, according to the Parks Service -- a critical cash flow for area businesses.
Letty Mendez, left, and Elsa DeVito wait for customers at Gator Grill near the entrance to Everglades National Park. DeVito said she has seen an 85 percent drop in business since the park was closed by the government shutdown.
Empty tables at Gator Grill, where a lone customer was eating inside. Everglades National Park usually sees 2,723 visitors on an average October day, but the government shutdown has now lasted longer than a week.
Other ways the shutdown is affecting Florida:
School District Hiring Freeze
Miami schools are operating short on staff because they've been unable to to check that new employees are eligible to work in the U.S. through the Department of Homeland Security's e-verify website.
The gorgeous Roseate Spoonbill hit a period of decline when its wings became a popular item for fans and hats in the 1800s.
Fortunately, "the establishment of Everglades National Park in 1947 seemed to have a positive affect on south Florida's spoonbill population, which began reusing nesting sites that hadn't been occupied since the late 1800s," according to the National Park Service.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced they are closing campgrounds and parks because of the shutdown, including those in Stuart, Moore Haven, Clewiston, and Alva along Lake Okeechobee-fed waterways.
"I'm married, I've got three kids, I'm a disabled veteran, and I'm out of work now," said Matt Bowser, a member of the 4,000-strong union of American Federation of Government Employees Local 1897 at Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field.
"On the internal side, your agency understands that we know we have a gap in the data because we couldn't help it. But when you go to publish that work or submit to reviewers or publishers, it's no good. And that's where scientists are really put in a bind by this situation: Scientific implementation is curtailed and it jeopardizes long-term data sets."
The protestors, aboard some 100 boats, also included restaurant employees and other Keys residents who depend on fishing tourism for a living.
"These are guides, these are bartenders, these are mates, they're captains, they're store owners, they're hotel owners, residents, so it's everybody getting together to stand up for what's going on because this really needs to get resolved before it gets any worse," said organizer Randy Towe, a fishing guide for 35 years.
According to the National Park Service, visitors to Everglades National Park spend some $147 million in surrounding communities each year.
"One week's worth of work is a quarter of my pay"
In Niceville, Robyn Murray was among U.S. Department of Labor staff sent home without pay. She has already filed for unemployment and begun looking for part-time work. Though her husband's job has not been affected, Murray told nwfdailynews.com that finances will be strained: "[The shutdown] is going to keep me from paying half of the rent or my car payment or a bill or two."
Thanks to the shutdown of Dry Tortugas National Park, no sea turtle nest monitoring will take place on seven islands in the Keys. A Florida Fish and Wildlife official told HuffPost that endangered green turtles may still be nesting in the area.
Florida has the highest number of Head Start and Early Head Start programs whose grant funding is tied to an October 1 cycle, Lilli Copp, director of the Head Start State Collaboration Office in Tallahassee, told The Huffington Post.
Nearly 10,000 children in Florida are potentially impacted. Head Start agencies provide preschool, medical, dental, mental-health, disabilities and nutritional services for children of working parents living at the poverty line -- many of whom will be unable to go to work without Head Start because they cannot afford childcare.
Already, 9 Head Start programs in the Tallahassee area were shuttered for a week before reopening Tuesday. Programs in Volusia county were going to close Monday, but will remain open another week through a line of credit. Copp said Jacksonville programs may have to close on Friday; Suwannee Valley programs had enough other funding to stay open for six and a half weeks; Orange and Palm Beach Counties have enough to stay open through the end of October; and Hillsborough County can stay open through the end of November.
The longer the shutdown lasts, the more likely it is that Head Start programs will close -- affecting not only children and parents but also employees.