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Shutdown takes toll on local economy; Concern surrounds impact to county
By: Genevieve Curtis
EL PASO, Texas -- As day four of the government shutdown ticks on, the El Paso economy starts to feel the pinch.
In a county with the fifth-highest percentage of federal government employees, the shutdown effects are rippling through the community.
As the shutdown drags on, County Judge Veronica Escobar said she's worried about what that will mean for the county.
Many local, federal employees are without a paycheck and many others don't know when the next one is coming. That means there's less money those households will spend at local businesses and less revenue from businesses means less money the county receives from sales tax.
Sales tax and property tax are the county's two main sources of revenue.
Local business owners in downtown El Paso said they're also concerned. Places like Kipps Cheesesteak and Tony's BBQ Pit are popular among the high number of federal employees in town.
Owner of Tony's, Christiana Vargas said she's already seen a drop-off in customers.
"The beginning of the month is usually the busiest, so I noticed," said Vargas.
Kipper Gray said the drop-off at his restaurant hasn't been as drastic but he can feel customers' concern and understands the longer the shutdown lasts, the more damage to the local economy.
"I would imagine if this goes on much longer than it is you're going to see a pretty sizable impact in people's willingness to spend that extra expendable income," said Gray.
Gray said to help customers get through this uncertain time, he's offering a shutdown special for federal employees. If they order a sandwich he'll add fries and a drink for just a buck.
Vargas said she's also working on a way to keep prices low, despite the rising cost of food.
County Commissioner Vince Perez said the county is concerned about the impact the shutdown will have on their budget. In about a month, the county will have a better idea of the magnitude of the shutdown when they get their sales tax report from the comptroller.