The local impact of a federal gov't shutdown

April 8, 2011 7:36:34 PM PDT
The Philadelphia region will see some immediate changes if the White House and Congress fail to reach an agreement on a new budget by midnight and the federal government shuts down.

Some federal workers aren't just worried about being furloughed, and how they will get by in the economy, but they are angry that Washington hasn't been able to pass a budget. And that's leaving everyone unsettled.

"I'm real soured about them, the higher ups that are making these decisions or supposed to be, and the little man is suffering for it, c'mon," says Marge, a federal worker.

"We're worried about it," says Yvette Lewis. "This is our jobs, you know, it feeds our families."

A Government furlough may not impact the Congress or the President, they are exempt, and will still get their paychecks, but it has a very tangible impact on many federal workers.

"Well a couple days won't be too bad, but long term would be a problem," said Chris, another federal worker.

"People are dealing with hardships now all over everywhere. Gas prices, food, everything's gone up, everything's more expensive," says another worker.

If the government does shut down, it does not actually stop entirely.

Activities and employees deemed "excepted" to keep the nation safe and operational continue to perform; for example, the courts.

"They have to have hearings, there's time limits involved when people get arraigned and all that," explained John Harley, who works with court security.

"I have been notified that I will not be," said Lisa Makosewski. "The agency that I actually work for is under the Defense Department. So I would continue to work."

Even so, those workers who are required to keep working will not get paid until the government resumes all operations and that has a lot of people in a foul mood.

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For example, Independence National Park, home of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, will have to close. That's because, as a national park, it is managed by the feds.

Thousands of local workers could also be forced to stay home. Action News caught up with some federal employees on Friday, on what could be their last day of work for a while.

"It's hard to understand that the Democrats and Republicans can't get together on an issue that's very "mainstream America," said Neil McGlynn of Northeast Philadelphia. "Just keeping our government running."

RELATED: InterAction: If there's a shutdown, who is to blame?

"I think the average American lives pay to pay, and it's just a question of how much they can endure before they get into trouble," said Esther Ahern of Manayunk.

The uncertainty also had people flocking to the passport office. For some, it was an absolute necessity to get their passports in case the government shuts down at midnight.

"I was working in New York City and I have to travel for business tomorrow and, given the pending shutdown, I couldn't take the risk of doing anything but an appointment and this was the first place I could get one," said Seamus McMahon of Park City, Utah. "So, I took the train down this morning."

The possible shutdown couldn't come at a worse time for Philadelphia, as the tourist season is just getting underway with numerous class trips expected to visit the historic sites, including Independence Mall.

However, non-federal attractions will remain open, like the Constitution Center and the Betsy Ross House.

Worries swirl around military base

Shopping at the Dollar General store outside Joint Base McGuire-Ft. Dix-Lakehurst on Friday afternoon, Navy wife Roxanne Beamish says she's concerned about what a government shutdown would mean for military families, whose paychecks would temporarily stop.

"Literally, when you're enlisted military, you literally do live paycheck to paycheck. It's going to be tough for a lot of families," she said.

Some worry about the extra stress not getting a paycheck would produce for active duty troops.

"Their family back here, how are they going to get food or pay the rent or the mortgage?" asked Marvin Free, a retired member of the military.

"They should always get paid. They're putting their lives on the line, they could still get killed, right?" said Kevin Dancy of Pennsauken.

If there is a shutdown military paychecks will be delayed, but not so the paychecks of the president and Congress. That does not sit well with a lot of people here.

Tracey Ricciardelli's 23-year-old son, James Farrell, is a Marine on the front lines in Afghanistan.

"Where's their benefits for sacrificing everything? Now we got the politicians that absolutely can go out and have nice dinners, ride around in limos," she said.