Recovering from the shutdown

Recovering from the shutdown
File Photo

By Anna Harris (File photo)

The 16-day partial government shutdown ended last week, but the deal struck to get Washington up and running again has left many with lingering doubts.

The bill signed by President Barack Obama that ended the impasse and raised the debt ceiling was a temporary fix that only lasts through February 7, with current spending levels supported through January 15.

Cheri Hennessy, president of the Christmas Attic and Urban Attic stores, fears a repeat of this past month.

“We were just getting over the economic downturn, and they made us go through this,” she said. “Now we have to deal with it again in February. … The marketplace doesn’t need that uncertainty.”

Even though the shutdown is history, it has long-term effects on the local business community, Hennessy said.

“This little ripple effect of the past two weeks is going to affect the economy as a whole for the next six months,” she said. “Whenever there’s a negative impact, I’m afraid to buy inventory, which affects the manufacturers. It’ll take a little while to get confidence back and start taking risks again.”

Hotels suffered immediately during the shutdown, weathering a slew of conference and event cancellations. But unlike Hennessy, members of the hospitality industry are less worried, at least according to Alizia McClarin, conference services coordinator with Hotel Monaco.

“It hasn’t affected us for the future in a huge dynamic way,” she said. “[There] are small things we might have to make up … but hotels can always sell the rooms back. We can fill them. It’s not like retail and food businesses, where once you’ve bought the merchandise or the food, you need to sell it back, and if you don’t, you’re losing money. We already have the rooms.”

She believes it’s important to stay positive and focus on bouncing back.

“You want to be proactive about these kinds of things,” McClarin said. “Don’t panic. Have a backup plan. Fill in the missing rooms. As long as you know your market and who you can get to, you can fill them.”

And, according to McClarin, the shutdown served as a learning experience. “Luckily, it’s over for now. In a way, it’s good that it happened,” she said. “Knowing that it could happen again soon, we can prepare. We know how to bounce back from it.”

It’s a lesson that Jacqueline Rodriguez, a management specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, also has taken to heart. Furloughed during the shutdown, the experience shook her out of complacency.

“I didn’t even know what to expect,” she said. “After the two weeks hit, reality hit too. I better get my act in gear.”

Though Rodriguez has returned to work with the promise of back pay for the temporary hiatus, she is focused on becoming more proactive about her personal finances.

“My dad always used to tell me growing up: ‘Always have enough money and save it just in case,’” Rodriguez said. “I can’t assume anymore. Always work as if you might not have the business anymore. You need something to fall back on. Always have plan A and B and even plan C.”