How U.S. government shutdown ripples across nation

(Reuters) – Science was put on hold, normally bustling stores went quiet and families depending on government aid feared losing their baby food as a government shutdown rippled across the country.

A runner climbs over a road gate leading to Fort Point National Historic Site, which has been closed due to the federal government shutdown, in San Francisco, California October 2, 2013. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
A runner climbs over a road gate leading to Fort Point National Historic Site, which has been closed due to the federal government shutdown, in San Francisco, California October 2, 2013. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

The budget impasse in Washing-ton shut all but essential U.S. government services for the second straight day yesterday, while neither political party appeared willing to budge.

Republicans want to tie continued government funding to measures that would undercut Obama’s signature healthcare law, while Obama and his Democrats say that is a non-starter.

Here are some snapshops of people affected across the United States.

Some work was just too important to halt for Ted Stout, 50, even though he was furloughed Tuesday as park chief of interpretation and education at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in central Idaho. Yesterday marked his eighth day of searching for a missing hiker.

Stout said he and several other laid-off workers would keep combing the vast lava fields for 63-year-old Jo Elliot-Blakeslee on their own time, without pay and despite worsening weather.

“It’s pretty much consuming our lives. We can’t let her down now. This needs to continue,” said Stout, who has worked for 10 years at a National Park Service site that spans 750,000 acres (300,000 hectares) of volcanic rifts, cinder cones and underground tunnels carved by ancient lava flows.

At its height, the hunt for Elliot-Blakeslee and a companion found dead last week from exposure drew helicopters and up to 100 searchers but those efforts have been scaled back partly because of the government shutdown, Stout said.

“We’re just in a real unusual situation,” Stout said. “All we can do is keep looking.”

Jocelyn Gonzalez, 22, is a stay-at home mother in Los Angeles who relies on assistance for her two young kids from Women, Infants and Children (WIC), a food voucher program the U.S. Department of Agriculture says it may not be able to fund if the shutdown lasts into late October.

Gonzalez’s husband, Alexis, works as a waiter and makes less than $1,000 a month, she said. Because of a lack of income, her family around the time the birth of her oldest child, Hazel, had to move from the working class Lincoln Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles to a cheaper, higher-crime area south of downtown.

They started receiving WIC when Hazel was born, and with an infant daughter, Delilah, now part of their family they rely on the program’s coupons to get free milk, baby food, formula, fruits and vegetables, she said.

“There’s been times where we don’t have a lot of money but I have my coupons right there,” Gonzalez said.

If the WIC program runs out, Gonzalez said her options will be limited.

“We can’t afford daycare so I don’t know what I would do,” she said. “I can’t even imagine, because it helps us out a lot.”

Myrna Pascual, 61, an analyst with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in San Diego, fears a U.S. government shutdown could force her to borrow against her home, increase her credit card use and possibly look for work at fast food restaurants.

“I would do that just to get by, because I’m not saved up,” said Pascual.

If Pascual remains out of a job until next week, she said she plans to file for unemployment benefits, but cannot be sure she will be eligible.

Her husband is retired and has limited resources on a fixed income. Both of her college student daughters still live at home.

She recently rented a room in her home to a boarder and started selling some of her possessions on eBay.

“My options are very limited,” she said. “I’m just hoping for the best.”

The Dunkin’ Donuts near three of Chicago’s federal office buildings usually has a line out the door as court clerks, Environmental Protection Agency lawyers and Internal Revenue Service agents feed their sugar habits.On Wednesday, business was so scarce one customer had three attendants, each of them offering “Can I help you?” in chorus. This makes store manager Vanessa Banderas nervous about her workers’ jobs, and her own.

“The way it was today, it was like ‘Oh my God, where is everybody? Where’s the business?’” said Banderas, 30, of Chicago, a single mother with four school-age children.

If business remains this slow, she will have to temporarily lay off about half of the store’s 18 workers, she said.

“I just thought Obama’s doing the right thing because he wants health care for everyone and then look what’s going on,” Banderas said.

National Weather Service meteorologist Amy Fritz helped build the computer model that predicted flooding from Hurricane Sandy that hammered New York and New Jersey a year ago. Now the roughly 65 people in her office have been sent home without pay.

“It’s like getting the wind knocked out of you,” said Fritz, 38 and a union steward, who faces $130,000 in student loans for her masters degrees in oceanography and meteorology.

The family’s main breadwinner, she pays $500 to $600 a month on the loans, plus rent and health insurance.

Now, all spending is on hold.

“I need a new laptop,” Fritz said. “That’s not happening.”

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