8,000 fed workers furloughed in Mass., tourist sites shut down


Laurel J. Sweet

An estimated 8,000 federal employees in Massachusetts stayed home this morning on unpaid furlough as the first government shutdown in nearly 20 years took effect.
The shutdown also shuttered Massachusetts tourist attractions — among them, Minuteman National Park in Concord, the USS Constitution in Charlestown and JFK Library in Dorchester.

“Our beaches are closed,” George Price, superintendent of the 44,000-acre Cape Cod National Seashore, told the Herald this morning as he was packing up to go home, leaving a “skeleton staff” of nine park rangers and two maintenance workers to cover six towns and the work of 130 now-furloughed fall staffers.
“Everybody thinks, ‘Well, the summer’s over, the traffic’s not that bad,’ but it’s just packed with people from around the country. They’re often senior citizens and this is their one chance to see Cape Cod,” Price said. “We typically see 10 to 17 buses a day at the Salt Pond Visitor Center.”

Price said his office has been scrambling to reach out to schools and tour companies to tell them to cancel their plans, noting that many other Cape businesses, including golf courses and motels, will economically suffer as well.
Nearly 10.5 million people visit the state’s 15 national parks every year.

The crown jewel of the lot — the Boston National Historic Park — encompasses Faneuil Hall, the Charlestown Navy Yard, the USS Constitution and Bunker Hill Monument. All are closed today.
Other attractions partnered with the park, but which operate independent of federal funding as private nonprofits, are open. They include Old North Church, Old South Church, the Paul Revere House, the African Meeting House and the Old State House, which collectively draw hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

Shuttered, however, are the Cambridge home where President John F. Kennedy was born Cambridge and the Springfield Armory.
There are close to 30,000 Bay State residents employed by the federal government, according to labor statistics.

For some of them, it’s business as usual today. For instance:
• Post offices will not be impacted by the shutdown and are maintaining regular business hours.
• Social Security field offices are open with limited services, which will continue to include taking applications for benefits, and reports of deaths. Services not being provided include issuing new and replacement cards.
• Passport applications can still be obtained through the U.S. Postal Service. The Boston Passport Agency within the Tip O’Neill Federal Building is also up and running.
“Fee-funded activities, including visa and passport issuance, and U.S. citizen services abroad, will continue since fees are collected to finance these services,” said Tanya Powell, a spokeswoman for the Department of State.
• Federal courts in Boston, Worcester and Springfield will conduct business as usual until Oct. 15, when the judiciary “will reassess its situation,” U.S. District Court Clerk Robert M. Farrell said. Both jurors and defendants should report as scheduled until then.
• Immigration services and food stamps have not been interrupted.

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