As American citizens entered a fourth day of the government shutdown with nary a hint that politicians will come to a speedy resolution, more stories emerged of how the Washington squabbling is having an effect on people across the country. From the tragic to the trivial, people are finding that a partially unfunded government is impacting them in ways they would never have expected.
As people continue to vent on social media with #DearCongress posts, here are some of the stories of frustration and worry:
Revolutionary War-era tavern goes dark
It’s a restaurant fit for George Washington himself – but even he couldn’t get a table there under the current Congress.
A Philadelphia tavern that first opened in 1773 and is housed within Independence National Historical Park found it would have to close for the duration of the shutdown because the building is owned by the U.S. National Parks Service, NBC Philadelphia reported.
“We were somewhat shocked when we received the news today that we would have to close at 3 p.m.,” tavern public relations director Molly Yun told NBC Philadelphia on Wednesday. “Unfortunately, we’re going to have to stay closed until the government re-opens, and our hands are tied.”
The restaurant had managed to stay open during the last government shutdown 17 years ago, and hoped it could keep serving braised rabbit and lobster pie fit for Ben Franklin – but officials said on Wednesday that they would have to go.
“We’ll lose thousands of people who won’t be able to dine here, hundreds of thousands of dollars will be lost, our staff will be out of their wages, and all of our inventory in the kitchens will go to waste,” Yun told the station.
No NTSB inspectors for deadly Tennessee bus crash
A fiery bus crash in Tennessee on Wednesday that left eight people dead and 14 more injured would not be probed by the National Transportation Safety Board, an official told NBC News, because all of their highway investigators have been furloughed as a result of the shutdown.
“In this particular case, I think it’s highly likely that we would have responded to it, but again, with our investigators furloughed, it’s impossible to do that,” said Sharon Bryson, deputy communications director for the NTSB. “All of our highway investigators are furloughed.”
Paul Efird / AP
In this aerial photo, emergency workers respond to a crash involving a passenger bus, a tractor-trailer and an SUV near Dandridge, Tenn.
Tennessee Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. Bill Miller described the damage to the bus as “tremendous” at a Thursday press conference.
The NTSB would normally arrive on the scene of an accident like Wednesday’s crash and spend at least a week there gathering evidence, Bryson said. They would then work to compile a final report on the incident that might take about 12 months to complete. What NTSB investigators might have gleaned from Wednesday’s crash will likely remain unclear, she said on Thursday.
“I think it’s hard to say,” Bryson said. “Without being able to take a look at it, it’s really hard for us to know.”
With fewer inspectors, union fears for miners’ safety
Following furloughs at the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the United Mine Workers of America have said that they are worried about workers’ safety at locations across the country.
Following the government shutdown, the mine workers union has adopted safety committees, “stepping up their usual routines to include some of the things that might normally do, going through the mine looking for potential hazards,” said Phil Smith, spokesman for United Mine Workers of America.
“When they’re not on the job it makes us more concerned,” Smith said. “We’re hoping to see inspectors back to work as soon as possible.”
During the shutdown, the MSHA would “continue key functions which directly involve protecting against imminent threats to life” in mines, Joseph Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, wrote in a contingency plan.
The agency kept on a total of 965 “excepted” employees, including a total of 13 at its national headquarters, according to the memo.
“If unforeseen emergencies, such as a mine disaster occurred, additional employees would be identified to work for the duration of the emergency. During a lapse in funding, MSHA would cease all other continuing, regular functions,” according to Main’s memo.
The MSHA conducted 656 “impact” inspections and issued more than 11,000 citations and 1,000 orders between April 2010 and the end of Sept. 2013, according to a press release. There were 36 miner fatalities in 2012, according to information compiled by MSHA.
Hawaiian tour company loses tens of thousands
At Discover Hawaii Tours, general manager Arnold Albiar estimates he’s losing about $50,000 a day in cancellations, refunds and operations costs after the state’s national parks were closed as a result of the shutdown. He has about 100 employees on staff, and says that if the political situation doesn’t improve in the next few days, he’s making plans to cut workers’ hours by as much as 20 percent over the weekend.
Discover Hawaii Tours
Arnold Albiar, the general manager of Discover Hawaii tours is losing $50,000 a day because of the government shut down. He said he is going to have to start cutting his employee's hours by the weekend if the shutdown continues.
Tourism is a major source of employment in Hawaii, more than $11 billion in visitor spending and $1 billion in tax revenue a year, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
All of the tours planned by Discover Hawaii stop by the USS Arizona Memorial, more than 500 people a day to the popular tourist attraction. The company has had to issue refunds and reschedule tours after the shutdown closed the memorial to the WWII-era battle ship sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor, according to Hawaii News Now.
“We need to stop playing politics and holding the country as a hostage,” Albiar said of lawmakers in Congress. “They need to do the right thing and work this out.”
Hawaii’s official tourism site wanted swimmers and sun-lovers alike to know that while the parks may be closed, saying in a statement that there was still plenty to see: “Hawaii is open for business. Despite the federal government shutdown, all of the state and county parks, beaches and trails remain open.”
Tropical Storm Karen breaks a weatherman’s furlough
The National Hurricane Center’s spokesman was tossed off the job by the government shutdown. Then Mother Nature intervened.
Dennis Feltgen told NBC News that he felt “helpless” as he sat at home for two days, unable to serve his role as the link between the NHC and the public. He was finally called back to work as the swirling mass of Tropical Storm Karen formed in the Gulf of Mexico, prompting a hurricane watch from Louisiana to Florida.
“During that time, I’m not allowed to look at emails, I can’t answer my cellphone or anything like that. I could see it piling up but I couldn’t do anything about it,” Feltgen said.
A message on Feltgen's voice mail said, "I am currently out of the office on furlough due to the shutdown of U.S. government operations," according to NBC Miami. Forecasters, technical staff and front desk staff at the NHC remained at work during the shutdown.
“This is a new experience for me and I have worked television for 30 years – being told you can’t come to work, you can’t do your job and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it because of what’s going on in Congress,” Feltgen said.
Watching the advisories for Karen come in this morning, Feltgen said he had a feeling he’d be called back to work. He raced in to the office after he got the call at 10 a.m., and said his coworkers gave him “a very nice reception.”
“There are people who aren’t going to get paid, we live paycheck to paycheck, and that’s a problem,” said the NHC spokesman, now back at work fielding questions. “This is impacting real people with real concerns.”
While the NHC’s website is available (“because the information this site provides is necessary to protect life and property,” a message says), the site for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association is down until the government gets its cash flow back. The White House called back furloughed employees of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in preparation for the storm on Thursday.
NBC News’ Sophia Rosenbaum and M. Alex Johnson contributed to this report.
First published October 4 2013, 1:16 AM