Furlough fallout: Partial government shutdown enters fifth week
Trespassers reported at Montezuma, Tuzigoot amid government shutdown
LAKE MONTEZUMA -- The government has been partially shut down for more than a month now leaving an estimated 800,000 government employees on furlough.
According to state records, Arizona has about 55,000 federal employees impacted by the partial shutdown.
As the partial shutdown enters its fifth week, several incidents of trespassing have been reported at Tuzigoot National Monument, Montezuma Well and Montezuma Castle, said National Park Service Superintendent Dorothy FireCloud.
Most recently, FireCloud said, was a group of people who trespassed into Montezuma Well on Sunday.
“They pulled the gate up and were able to pull it from its hinges,” FireCloud said.
The monument, while normally free, is closed right now because of furloughed staff not available to maintain the “cultural nature” of the park. Approximately 22 employees between the three parks are on furlough, FireCloud said. Volunteers also can’t return to work.
“They are sitting and waiting to get back to work,” FireCloud said, “I’m afraid we are going to lose our volunteers.”
FireCloud said there are still four NPS officers working in the parks and writing tickets. The fine for trespassing is $250, she said, with an additional $30 processing fee. Offenders could also face up to six months in jail.
“(Trespassing is) almost daily,” FireCloud said. “It’s keeping our law enforcement officers busy during the shutdown.
FireCloud she wants to alert people that Tuzigoot, Montezuma Well and Montezuma Castle are all closed.
“We don’t want to keep writing tickets,” she said.
The shutdown is also affecting revenue coming into the parks through book sales with the temporary closure of two bookstores, FireCloud said.
Resources for furloughed employees
While the implications of the partial government shutdown are still being weighed, federal employees are facing the hardships in real time.
We’ve gathered a list of resources for federal employees currently under furlough:
City of Cottonwood
Furloughed employees who are Cottonwood residents can receive help with their sewer utility bill payments.
“City customer service representatives can work with residents affected by the partial government shutdown,” according to a city news release.
Affected customers can call the Cottonwood Municipal Utilities department at 928-634-0186 to star the process.
To qualify, customers much reach out to the city proactively.
APS announced a $1.5 million increase in assistance for customers who are struggling to pay their electricity bills due to a sudden financial hardship, with a special fund of $500,000 designated for Arizonans who have been affected by the federal government shutdown, according to an APS news release.
For more information, visit aps.com/billassistance
Customers who are Federal government employees and need short-term account assistance can work with T-Mobile Customer Care representatives on solutions tailored to meet their needs, including flexible payment options that allow customers to spread their service payments over time, according to the company’s website. Call 611 from a T-Mobile device or 1-877-746-0909 from any phone.
Verizon customers can enter their “Promise to Pay” program to set future dates for payment. For support with wireless, call 1-866-266-1445. For assistance with residential home service, call 1-800-VERIZON.
AT&T customers affected by the shutdown are eligible for flexible payment options. Visit att.com/contactus for more information.
Credit Union West
Credit Union West is offering a two-year loan of up to $6,000 at 0 percent APR with the first payment delayed for 90 days, or a “skip payment” option which waives one monthly payment of an existing loan at no cost.
Members can apply at Credit Union West’s website at cuwest.org/assistance.
Nonmembers who have been impacted by the shutdown can apply to become Credit Union West members and apply for the zero-percent, two-year loan, with no payment for the first 90 days at the web address above or at the nearest Credit Union West location.
Membership is open to all who live, work or worship in Maricopa or Yavapai County.
Furloughed employees can call a special line to discuss their options at 1-888-356-0023. The bank also said it will “automatically waive or refund overdraft and monthly service fees” during the shutdown.
Bank of America
Bank of America provides priority assistance phone line for customers affected by the shutdown. Contact 844-219-0690.