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Storm dumps snow on Mid-Atlantic, closing airports and government

With major airports and the federal government shut down, effects from this week's snow storm will linger beyond the time needed to dig out. The unemployed may be impacted by Congress' snow days, unless lawmakers are able to rush through a bill extending their benefits.

By Ron SchererStaff writer / February 10, 2010

Workers at Laguardia Airport in New York City try to clear the tarmac as snow continues to accumulate during a blizzard that lashed the US East Coast for the second time in less than a week. The storm has wreaked havoc from Washington to New York by forcing government agencies, the United Nations, and schools to close.

Chip East/REUTERS

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New York

The Eastern third of the nation is having another “B-day,” as in blizzard, which is resulting in another “D-day,” as in disruption.

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The US House of Representatives was supposed to have hearings on the Haiti recovery, Toyota accelerator pedal problems, the Federal Reserve’s exit strategy, and the dilemma facing Google over cyberhacking. All postponed because of the snow.

For the unemployed, it could be worse than just a missed hearing: Congress' snow days may cost the jobless a week or two of additional unemployment checks and COBRA coverage unless lawmakers can rush through a jobs bill.

Vice President Joseph Biden planned to make a major speech on the Obama administration’s nuclear security agenda. The speech will now have to wait another week.

In Washington, Reagan National and Dulles airports were shut down Wednesday. And at airports all around the New York metro area, there are hundreds of cancelled flights, stranding thousands of travelers.

Yes, if nothing else, this winter will be remembered for its snow disruptions. Normally, they are short-lived, as travelers get rebooked on a flight the following day, hearings are rescheduled, and lives return to normal.

But this winter may be a little bit different, because of the severity and location of the storms. The Washington, D.C., area, now buried by two consecutive blizzards, is not used to coping with Buffalo, N.Y., amounts of snow. Retailers, already struggling to entice consumers to spend, will find it hard to make up the lost sales. Many travelers will find it harder to get rebooked because the airlines have reduced capacity so much.

“The degree these snow days are so costly and a waste of money depends on whether the work will be made up,” says Karen Dynan, vice president for economic studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “As far as the people who make policy, it is highly likely the work will be made up. They will just work extra hours.”

Federal government shuts down, again

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