Government shutdown cripples tourist town near Grand Canyon
A small community near the southern mouth of the Grand Canyon that usually boasts a bevy of tourists has been turned into a veritable ghost town by the government shutdown.
Nearly all of the 542 people who live in Tusayan, Ariz., just outside the Grand Canyon's South Rim entrance, rely on the world-famous tourist attraction for their livelihoods.
But the government shutdown has shuttered the famous national park and emptied out the surrounding streets, depriving residents of revenue.
"It's disastrous," said Greg Bryan, the manager of a local Best Western hotel who also happens to be the town's mayor. He added that Tusayan is losing tens of thousands of dollars a day—totaling close to a million in much-needed money that business owners likely won't recoup.
Roughly 4.5 million visitors from around the world venture to the Grand Canyon annually, injecting an estimated $1.3 million a day into nearby towns.
The Best Western, which is usually 90 percent occupied—especially in October, when cool temperatures throw off the blanket of Southwestern heat—was barely one-third full Tuesday night, Bryan said.
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Many of the hotel's employees—not to mention some 2,200 workers inside the park—have been laid off amid the tense political impasse in Washington.
Now, residents are scrambling to make ends meet after losing jobs that didn't pay all that much to begin with, locals said.
On Tuesday, some 50 people swarmed the entrance sign to Grand Canyon National Park, staging a "fed up with the feds" protest to draw attention to the fiscal crisis plaguing the town, according to the Associated Press.
"The service workers are suffering. They have no pay, no food," said Bill Brookins, a protester. "They are minimum-wage workers. It's wrong."
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Some residents slammed by the effects of the shutdown are so in need that an Arizona food bank has started making regular donations inside the Grand Canyon, delivering hundreds of boxes to aid concession and government employees who have been furloughed from their jobs or had their shifts snipped.
"It's definitely going to affect my paycheck," hotel room inspector Louise Mendoza told the AP as she picked up a box of nonperishable food products at a local fire station. "It's really hard because we have only a few to do every day, and the hours are short."
And almost everyone in town has been forced to make do with just the bare necessities as the regional economy grinds to a halt and the local tourist industry breaks down.
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"You just have to go bare bones. Cut everything," said Rick Wiles, the pastor at the Grand Canyon Baptist Church and the proprietor of a local general store. "Hold as much cash as you can."
As desperation and frustration mounted on the ninth day of the shutdown, Bryan called on political players in Washington to end the budget brinkmanship and relaunch the federal government.
"I'd say: Ladies and gentlemen, get big boy pants, get this job done," he said."The decisions you're not making are hurting and killing people on the ground."
—By Janet Shamlian, NBC News