Government shutdown causes grief for Castillo interns




By Sara David |

As the nation enters the third week of the government shutdown, Republicans and Democrats show no signs of coming to a compromise.

The shutdown, which began on Oct. 1, has caused Congress to halt on passing spending bills that fund certain functions of government — from funding agencies to paying out small business loans and processing passport requests — altogether.

National parks, such as the Castillo de San Marcos, have been closed as part of the shutdown, as well as attractions that are part of the federally funded Smithsonian Institution.

For many Flagler College students who work at the Castillo, the shutdown has hit close to home.

Employees were grouped into two categories: essential and non-essential. Essential personnel included law enforcement rangers and the park’s superintendent. All other employees, including interns, were sent home.

Veronica Pietrucci, a public history minor at Flagler College, worked as an intern at the Castillo for an average of 10 hours a week until the park closed.

“If this shutdown continues for longer than a few weeks, it will have a serious impact on my academic life,” Pietrucci said. “Unless we are able to transfer to a different internship site, or work something out with the college due to the circumstances, I could potentially not graduate in December.”

Pietrucci also has concerns about preserving the fort without necessary government funding.

“[The shutdown] honestly scared me. I was thinking of a long-term shutdown and how it would affect the overall preservation of the fort, especially if the maintenance team was not able to fix any potentially catastrophic damages,” Pietrucci said.

Miranda Trew, another intern at the Castillo, needs to complete an internship to fulfill the requirements of her public history minor. Although her professor has been understanding of the situation thus far, Trew is worried it could affect her academic life as well.

“[If it lasts more] than two weeks and I’ll be really concerned about my hours,” Trew stated. “Unless I drop the minor, I need it.”

Trew says that the closure also means something to tourists, who will be unable to visit a until the shutdown ends.

“I really think it’s terrible that people can’t work and that the parks are closed to visitors,” Trew said. “It’s unfair to them.”

The shutdown, which resulted from the failure of Congress to pass a budget for the year over disagreements about Obamacare and the debt ceiling, does not equate to anarchy in the streets.

Mail will continue to be delivered and social security, air traffic control and active military pay will continue to be funded. However, if someone needs a federal loan, a gun permit or a passport, they should expect delays.

This partial government shutdown of “non-essential” services is the first shutdown since two consecutive shutdowns in late 1995 and early 1996, which ended up totaling 26 days.

Dan Lang, an adjunct political science and history professor, says that the government shutdown could have widespread impacts on the economy at the national and local levels.

“It’s not helpful to have attractions, local attractions, shut down, like the Castillo, like Fort Matanzas,” Lang said. “It’s quite honestly a dereliction of duty on Congress’ behalf.”

Lang says that the shutdown is more about political theater than resolving national issues.

“There are certainly issues that need to get fleshed out, but I do believe that it is somewhat of a manufactured crisis by a small segment of Congress and it doesn’t need to happen,” said Lang.

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