Smithsonian Losing $1 Million A Week

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The partial government shutdown is currently costing the Smithsonian substantial revenue, wrote Smithsonian Institution secretary David J. Skorton in a Tuesday op-ed for USA Today. Skorton points out that unlike federal institutions that are suffering mostly from lack of direct funds during the shutdown, organizations like the Smithsonian, which rely in part on secondary revenue from the public, are affected differently.

“The closure of restaurants, shops, IMAX theaters and other operations is costing the Smithsonian approximately $1 million in revenue each week,” Skorton wrote. “These losses are not recoverable. They will have a lasting effect on our budget for this fiscal year. And that effect grows each day.”

The Smithsonian Institution is made up of 19 museums in total and is the world’s largest public educational complex of its kind. Typically the museums and the National Zoo welcome about 45,000 visitors a day.

Early in the shutdown, the museums, as well as the zoo, were able to remain open despite the cutoff of federal funds by using money carried over from the previous year. This allowed the various entities to remain in operation for 11 days, which would have outlasted all but the few longest of the previous 20 shutdowns in United States history. Regardless, they fall far short in the face of the record-breaking 33 days and counting currently dragging on.

As the museums close their doors, so too do they temporarily stop the day-to-day research and work of the facilities.

In addition to the lost revenue for the institution, Skorton in his op-ed also laments the personal financial challenges faced by the more than 4,000 Smithsonian employees who are now approaching their second missed paycheck as a result of the shutdown. Ultimately most of these workers will receive back pay once the shutdown ends, though contractors generally will not. In either case, workers are on their own when it comes to figuring out how to make ends meet until paychecks resume and back pay arrives.

Further reaching will be the longer-term effects of the lack of retail operations, with the estimated $1 million a day lost cutting into the Smithsonian’s $1.4 billion annual budget, which comes from a combination of federal support, philanthropy, and retail.

“Each day of the shutdown has palpable effects on this proud and venerable cultural institution, the people we serve and the members of the Smithsonian family,” Skorton wrote. “I hope that these effects will soon come to a halt, and that we will be able to again serve the American public as we have for more than 172 years.”