The US Government Shutdown Has Limited Impact on Travel So Far
Members of Congress will reconvene later today (January 22, 2018) to vote on a short-term budget compromise that will allow the government to fully fund its operations, but for the most part, travelers should see little immediate impact from the government shutdown initiated over the weekend.
A provision in the government’s operating rules requires essential employees remain on their jobs, including the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration. As a result, all airport security and air traffic control towers are fully operational today.
US Travelers seeking passports also should not be impacted. The State Department has closed buildings where some passport agencies are housed, but in general, passport services are paid for through fees, so those offices remain open during the shutdown, and normal processing times are in effect.
In addition, U.S. embassies and consulates are open for Americans needing assistance while traveling abroad.
However, there were reports over the weekend that the U.S. Customs & Border Protection agency was postponing interviews for its Global Entry program, but that could not be confirmed at press time.
On its website, CBP said “Due to a lapse in appropriations the CBP Information Center is closed until further notice. Transactions submitted via this website might not be processed and we will not be able to respond to inquiries until after appropriations are enacted.”
Parks and museums could be hardest hit
Over the weekend, many famous National Parks remained open. For example, Yosemite, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco and Everglades National Park and Long Pine Key in Florida, remained open.
Visitors to the national park system will have fewer services, however. In a memo issued to employees prior to the shutdown, the Interior Department said that “Park roads, lookouts, trails, and open-air memorials will generally remain accessible to visitors, but there will be no NPS-provided visitor services, including restrooms, trash collection, facilities and roads maintenance (including plowing), and public information.”
In Washington, D.C., tourists can still visit monuments and memorials along the National Mall, but they will find now park rangers staffing these sites, and concession stands are closed. The world-famous Smithsonian, which includes 11 museums on the Mall, and the Washington National Zoo were open over the weekend, and will be open today, Monday, Jan. 22, according to the agency’s Twitter account.
“The Smithsonian can use prior year funds still available to us to do so. We will update our status beyond Monday as soon as we know,” the agency said on its Twitter feed.
In New York, the Statue of Liberty on Governor’s Island closed this weekend, but will reopen this week following an agreement between the Department of the Interior and the State of New York.