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Shutdown Aftermath: Loss Of Data, Research And Business Opportunities

During the longest partial government shutdown in history, federal workers not only missed out on their paydays, they also lost time. Locally, that created a loss of data, research and business opportunities.  

It’s the first week back in the office for Elliott Hazen. He’s a Research Ecologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, in Monterey.

In his office near Old Fisherman’s Wharf, handmade cards from his kids are pinned to a corkboard on his wall. Hazen looks over a crowded Google calendar on his computer; there’s a lot of work to catch up on.

“We realize we're not going to be able to do everything, we're just inherently going to have to lose some of the projects, or leave behind some of the projects that we were working on,” Hazen says.

One project in limbo is ocean data collection. Four times a year, research vessels head out to sea to collect all sorts of data for NOAA, from water temperatures to what marine animals are where.  

“So it's really a holistic survey that gives us four data points a year as to what is happening in our backyard,” says Hazen.

NOAA relies on this data. The vessels were supposed to head out in early January. But the shutdown kept them docked.

Hazen says they’re trying to reschedule the trip and hopefully avoid the first winter data gap in about 70 years. But for now, plans are up in the air.

“The immediacy of science doesn't take a break. And so whenever we take a break from doing that research it just adds that much more time to what we need to do,” says Hazen.

The 35-day partial government shutdown has also affected research at Pinnacles National Park. Park Ranger Beth Hudick says some scientific data is forever lost.

“Just for a small example, we've been collecting weather data at least since the 1930s. And this is the largest gap, or at least one of the largest gaps, in our records since World War II. So that's not something that we'll ever be able to get back,” Hudick says.

With just a skeleton staff working at Pinnacles, she says there was also an uptick in illegal activity during the shutdown.

“We've had Condors harassed by drones, which was really sad. They're a critically endangered bird and to see that, it was disheartening,” says Hudick.

Now that all staff members are back, Hudick says clearing storm damage has been a priority as visitors are welcomed back. Rock slides and downed trees piled up along with trash.

Meanwhile, the possibility of another shutdown weighs on everyone’s minds.

“It's a lot of waiting, a lot of watching the news,” Stefanie Gallegly says.

Stefanie sits next to her husband, Matt Gallegly, in their Carmel Valley office. She says, “There are a lot of people out there that you would never think were affected by the shutdown but are.”

Like the Galleglys. The couple has a small digital marketing business called Trailguide Technology Services. They’re hoping their loan through the U.S. Small Business Administration will process in time. They were about to send in their application when the government shutdown.

“Just because the government's back open, there's such a backlog. So the loan hasn't come through, we haven't been able to put our plan into operation,” says Stefanie.

Their plan was to hire a new employee to help grow their company.

“You start thinking about sort of the unknown, you know, the perfect employee that could have been out there that we didn't hire,” Matt says.

“It’s kind of nerve-wracking, day by day, wondering like will the loan go through today, will we get the money, or do we still have to wait and feel like the future of our business growth is dependent on a compromise about a border wall, or not a compromise,” Stefanie says.

Unless a compromise is reached, the government is only funded through February 15. That means another shutdown is possible in two weeks.

Erika joined KAZU in 2016. Her roots in radio began at an early age working for the independent community radio station in her hometown of Boulder, Colorado. After graduating from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in 2012, Erika spent four years working as a television reporter. She’s very happy to be back in public radio and loves living in the Monterey Bay Area.
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