The family of a missing Idaho hiker issued an urgent plea for volunteers to continue the search for their loved one after staff at Craters of the Moon National Monument faced furloughs, one example of real-life impact of the federal government's shutdown.
The park received exceptions for 10 of the 16 staffers due to be idled so they could keep looking for Jo Elliott-Blakeslee of Boise, said park Superintendent Dan Buckley.
Jewel Samad / AFP - Getty Images
A protester covers his mouth with a dollar bill as he joins others in a demonstration in front of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on October 1, 2013 urging congress to pass the budget bill.
"We're basically left with park staff at this point, with some help from the Butte County Sheriff's Office," Ted Stout, a spokesman for the monument, told local paper the Idaho Statesman.
While Democrats in Washington blamed the continued crisis on a Republican obsession with the Affordable Care Act and the GOP pointed at Democratic intransigence, the Idahoan’s story was just one of the ripple effects a partially unfunded government began to have across the country.
Hundreds of thousands of government workers were off the job, national parks were closed, tourism dollars slipped away, the National Zoo’s panda-cam remained dark, and politicians took potshots at one another on Twitter as the federal government shutdown crawled into its second full day.
Alaskan Gertrude Berry tried to get her nephew’s Social Security card replaced on Tuesday in Anchorage, but found that the service had been cut off during the shutdown.
“How is he going to be enrolled in Job Corps if we can’t get the Social Security card?” Berry asked, according to local NBC News affiliate KTUU.
Thousands of miles east, in Bridgeport, Conn., parents wondered what to do with their children after about 1,200 youngsters were left without anywhere to go because Head Start programs had been canceled, NBC Connecticut reported.
“These are folks that don’t make a lot of money, but they do go to work every day and they have to have a place to keep their children, and the Head Start program provides them with that,” said Bill Bevacqua, deputy director of Action for Bridgeport Community Development, according to the station.
The government shutdown will likely cost the U.S. economy about $1.6 billion a week or $12.5 million an hour, according to estimates by economic consulting firm HIS Global Insight. While some experts say that amount only adds up to a tiny sliver of the GDP, others say it could take a long-term toll on an already weakened economy.
With more than 150,000 civilian employees of the Department of the Army furloughed, military towns began to feel the pinch. Contractors and small business owners who rely on the military for their income – including Brian Kent of Fayetteville, N.C. – kept a close eye on the situation in Washington.
“Nobody is making any decisions in Washington for the whole year. This is nothing new. This is just a complete failure for 18 months,” Kent said, according to the Associated Press. “Our plans for expansion have been on hold for this whole year. If anything, we’re making plans for contraction.”
Websites for government entities including the Department of Agriculture, Library of Congress, and Bureau of Labor Statistics were down or not being updated on Wednesday, and the National Security Agency said on its site that it would not be processing Freedom of Information Act or Privacy Act requests for the duration of the shutdown.
In Washington, D.C., restaurants and bars offered free or discounted drinks and food to furloughed federal workers. Just outside the District, in Alexandria, Va., the restaurant handed out nearly 300 pulled pork sandwiches to workers who showed government ID – while proclaiming on their Twitter account that the offer “EXCLUDES CONGRESSMEN,” according to the AP.
Offices at the Capitol complex itself seemed abandoned late on Tuesday as many of them operated with a bare minimum of employees. Furloughed staffers were required to turn off their government-issued Blackberries. One Senate staffer, when asked how colleagues at home felt about the shutdown, replied: “We don’t really know, because there’s nobody to answer the phones.” One senator noted that there were no tablecloths on their lunch tables.
While monuments along the National Mall were closed, a group of WWII veterans, cheered by Republican lawmakers, bypassed barriers and spent a day at their memorial on Tuesday. Dozens of veterans from Kansas and Missouri planned to make their own Honor Flight to the nation’s capital on Wednesday, NBC News affiliate of KSHB reported.
“Let’s say that I’m pushing a wheelchair of a friend. Open the gate! Open the gate! I’m coming through! Are they going to stop this wheelchair? No,” Navy veteran Peter Peterka, 89, told KSHB.
“At 89 years old,” Peterka said, “No. I don’t think the government is ever going to get straightened out.”
For workers at some of the museums, monuments, and offices in the capital, furloughs took an almost immediate chip out of their savings.
"After next week, if I'm not working, I'm going to have to find a job," Robert Turner, a mechanic at the Smithsonian National Museum of National History, told the AP.
President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that there was no way out of the funding impasse unless Republicans backed down on their claims to tie critical parts of the Affordable Care Act to a funding bill, even as key parts of the law were introduced across the country.
“This is only going to happen when Republicans realize they don’t get to hold the economy hostage over ideological demands,” Obama said Tuesday from the Rose Garden, surrounded by people he described as beneficiaries of the health-care law. “It’s all about rolling back the Affordable Care Act. This, more than anything else, seems to be what the Republican Party stands for these days.”
NBC News’ Carrie Dann, Kasie Hunt and Steve James contributed to this report. The Associated Press and Reuters also contributed.
First published October 2 2013, 4:47 AM