Fiscal Bomb About To Be Dropped On New Mexico – Day Twelve of Shutdown

So do you want the good, or the ugly news first today? We’re beyond “bad.”

I’ll make an executive decision – we’re all going to need a ray of sunshine, so I’ll start with the bomb. Bombs – plural, really, because I just heard that the teams in Antarctica have been told to pack up and leave. See my post Research Will Be Frozen – Day Nine of Shutdown, published October 9, 2013.

A few days ago my sister told me that if things don’t change, the Lab will shut down next Friday, October 18, 2013. We are talking about the Los Alamos National Labs, or LANL, in New Mexico.

Let me offer you a quick verbal picture of the town. “L.A.” as the locals call, sits 7’000-plus feet above sea level, and frankly, the altitude makes it difficult for me to walk and talk at the same time, (though not everyone may be complaining about that.) It’s a gorgeous place. Built on four mesas that are like fingers extending from the hand of the plateau, it’s easy to get “that view” of the canyon, the Rio Grande River, and the sweeping panorama of the pinion forests and mountains. My family always takes the dog, well, the dog always takes us, down the street and on the path to the canyon rim where he chases wild rabbits and we never tire of the vista. It’s quiet. The prominent night sky is a gift for any amateur astronomer or deep sky photographer; my brother-in-law’s shots of the heavens look like they were taken through the lens of Hubble.

The town is your basic town with homes and apartments, stores and restaurants and kids and schools, library and banks and businesses including a fabulous resale shop, parks and movie theaters and churches and doctors’ offices and gas stations, music and dance performance groups and museums and even a National Monument (Bandelier is closed, of course), plus the main employer, the Los Alamos National Laboratory. People from all over the world have settled in Los Alamos. It’s a town of hard working, well-educated thinkers and doers.

LANL employs about 8,700 people, the Department of Energy employs around 1,600 contractors, so roughly we’re looking at the furlough of 10,000 people in one town. There will be a few people working because of safety and security operations, but that’ it.

The web site is running, but with a caveat that it may not be updated until Congress approves funds for 2014. LANL is a leader in science technology and innovation, the environment, space research, security and yes, defense. Fusion energy research is being conducted. The place is a national and international think tank. Scientists and engineers routinely travel to universities and labs in the U.S. and abroad to engage in research. Check out the web site before that’s shut down, too.

People are scrambling. College kids are worried that parents won’t be able to keep up their tuition payments. Locals are thinking ahead, trying to figure out a plan to hold onto their homes and businesses because when a community’s number one employer locks the doors, how can the economy not be decimated? Hotels and restaurants are already feeling the pinch of Bandelier National Monument’s closure.

Want some stats? Read this quote from Albuquerque Business First, reported by Dan Mayfield and published October 9, 2013 (This article discusses the impact of the impending closure of the Sandia National Laboratories (October 21) in Albuquerque if there is no resolution to the standoff in Washington.) “BBER [The University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research] did a study in 2011 that said the lab [LANL] injected $1.6 billion into the northern New Mexico economy in 2009, which resulted in 11,200 direct jobs. That equals an economic impact of $4.38 million a day. Of those jobs, 8,700 employees are on LANL’s payroll. Mr. Mayfield continues, “LANL is the sixth-largest employer in New Mexico. All of its revenue is provided by the federal government. Annually, the BBER study said, LANL is responsible for $1.05 billion in employee compensation and benefits.

Wow. Let that sink in.

Now, I promised you a ray of light.

After employees received word that the shutdown will force LANL to lock its doors next Friday, the local paper published this rare and polished gem: Breaking News: Los Alamos National Bank Launches Program to Provide Relief for Furloughed Federal Employees.

The Los Alamos National Bank President, Steve Wells, stated: “Our community and customers have always counted on LANB to be there for them. The unfortunate situation many may find themselves in due to government furloughs is a time when LANB can again help.” Breathe a sigh.

The piece states, “Los Alamos National Bank (LANB) is rolling out a program to provide relief for furloughed Federal Employees called “LANB S.T.R.O.N.G., which stands for “Short Term Relief Options (while) No Government.” This includes relief in the forms of payment deferrals on loans and credit cards, home mortgage loan payment forbearance, waived overdraft fees and short term loans. It’s brilliant.

Kudos to LANB. We need to help each other. As Los Alamos is a town of ideas and innovations, let’s take LANB’s lead and extend a hand to others impacted by this dreadful thing. If you haven’t already done so, I invite you to read my posting for Day Eight of Shutdown. There is no way that we can let Congress drop this fiscal bomb.

Kathy Galgano

October 12, 2013