The impact of the first government shutdown in 17 years began to be felt across America on Tuesday.
The National Zoo went dark, the Statue of Liberty closed its doors, hundreds of thousands of federal employees faced indefinite furloughs, tourist destinations shut down, services including food assistance, IRS audits, even immigration services are disrupted.
E-Verify will be shut down. According to the Department of Homeland Security, “citizens and U.S. businesses will not be able to access E-Verify, the Internet based system that allows employers to voluntarily determine the eligibility of prospective employees to work in the United States.”
The Department of State (DOS) will only process diplomatic visas and visas for “life or death” situations. During the last government shutdown, between 20,000 to 30,000 visa applications by foreigners and more than 200,000 U.S. applications for passports went unprocessed.
Voters voiced their anger over the Internet and airwaves on Tuesday about the shutdown, which came after lawmakers reached an impasse on a bill to finance the government past Sept. 30.
The Senate rejected measures passed by the Republican-led House on Monday that would have delayed key portions of the Affordable Care Act while extending funding for a few weeks.
“Thanks for the shutdown and lack of pay,” Twyla Strogen said in a tweet. “We, the public, your bosses, will return the favor at the polls.”
The Senate reconvened at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday after the House requested a bipartisan conference of lawmakers be convened to hash out the crisis.
President Barack Obama said in a statement on Tuesday that politicians have treated federal employees “like a punching bag” in recent years. “You have endured three years of a federal pay freeze, harmful sequester cuts, and now, a shutdown of our government,” Obama said.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell blamed Democrats, saying that they “dragged their feet for days” and rejected bills passed by the House that would have kept the government funded, if only for a little while.
Local to Elkin, the federal shutdown was felt minimally.
“No effect at this time,” said town manager Lloyd Payne of the Town of Elkin.
Travelers driving along the 252 miles from the North Carolina High Country to the Great Smoky Mountains were urged to take precautions.
“Without the convenience of comfort stations every 20 or 30 miles, travelers will want to scope out less obvious places to take a break,” said Wit Tuttell, director of tourism marketing for the North Carolina Department of Commerce’s Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development. “The payoff for mapping out the possibilities is discovering some of the small-town gems on the journey.”
“All parkway facilities, such as campgrounds, visitor centers, concessions, headquarters, etc. will not be open during any governmental shutdown period,” said Thomas W. Hardy, Executive Director Blue Ridge Parkway Association.
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