While Congress and the White House go down to the wire over budget negotiations, I received an email yesterday that made the potential government shutdown hit close to home and the real-life consequences of the Feds closing their doors crystal clear.
My wife and I have a rafting trip in the Grand Canyon planned for next week. My inbox included a message from the owner of Arizona Raft Adventures & Grand Canyon Discovery informing us that if the government shutdown occurs, the Grand Canyon will be closed to the public. On the surface this might seem like just a mere inconvenience, but in reality it would hit the owners of the business, their employees and all of us planning a trip where it hurts the most: our pocketbooks.
Aside from the actual expense of our rafting trip, we’d lose the money we’ve spent on our airline tickets, if it’s too late to reschedule, the hotel we plan to stay at before and after we launch would charge us a cancellation fee and changing our vacation plans at the last minute is, simply, a major pain in the neck.
The same is true for all of the company’s clients—and they’re not just Yanks, either. Owner Fred Thevenin said one couple, scheduled to hit the rapids on Saturday, is coming all the way from England. Imagine their surprise if they get here ready to spend their two-and-a-half week vacation experiencing the wild beauty of one of our greatest national treasures and are told it’s closed because lawmakers in Washington couldn’t agree on a budget. That’s bloody disappointing.
But beyond our financial loss and the frustration over the demise of our vacation, the small business we’ve paid to take us down the Colorado River would ultimately pay the biggest price. If no agreement comes by April 9, Arizona Raft Adventures stands to lose around $60,000. While some customers may rebook, that’s money they’ll never make back. And things like food, truck driver salaries and other expenses they’ve paid for in anticipation of their tours are lost forever.
A shutdown would have a domino effect on everyone involved in this trip—all the way down to businesses like car rental companies and hotels—wasting money and time and creating unnecessary hardship. As the uncertain fate of my raft trip shows, a shutdown would have a wide-ranging impact on our nation’s small business community.
Small business owners sent their elected representatives to Washington to solve problems, not play political games with their livelihoods. I can withstand the personal and financial inconvenience a shutdown would cause, but can small employers who have to meet payroll and pay the bills survive such an event? Only time will tell, but I wholeheartedly agree with Fred when he says, “I’m hoping they figure it out.”