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Long shutdown could lead to real hardship in affluent suburbs

Thursday - 10/3/2013, 5:21am  ET

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FAIRFAX, Va. - There are some visible signs of the federal government shutdown outside Washington. Some scenic bypasses are closed and Gravelly Park along the George Washington Parkway is closed.

But the real pain outside of downtown D.C. may not show up for a week or two if the shutdown lasts a while.

"This is a company town," says Fairfax Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova, whose husband is among those federal workers on furlough.

She says there could be real hardship in the suburbs in one or two weeks when programs run by the local counties, but funded by the federal government, run out of money.

"It would be a real hardship for someone to go a week or more without revenue to pay their mortgage," Bulova says.

Fairfax County has enough federal money left to pay programs like food stamps, child care assistance, the energy assistance program and others.

Once that money runs out, those who depend on those programs will have nowhere to go, officials say.

"We're not going to stroke a check to make up for what the federal government isn't doing," says Supervisor John Cook. "We can't do that and our taxpayers don't expect us to do that."

The story is similar in all the counties surrounding Washington where thousands of furloughed federal workers or laid-off government contract workers could soon be seeking services.

During the shutdown, Bulova says Fairfax County alone will lose $1.6 million a day in sales tax and other revenue generated by federal employees or contract workers.

If the federal shutdown goes beyond a week or two, the loss of that revenue could have a significant impact on county budgets used to pay for other local programs.

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