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Government shutdown: Americans hurt as DC 'squabbles like kids'

By Josh Levs, CNN
updated 10:54 AM EDT, Wed October 2, 2013

(CNN) -- It took virtually no time at all. As soon as the government shutdown took effect at midnight, Americans of all stripes found their lives affected, and for some, their livelihoods threatened.

Federal workers who have already suffered through furloughs suddenly found themselves at home, unsure of their financial futures. Rob Merritt, a defense worker, feared he might have to file for bankruptcy -- his only solace Tuesday coming after learning he'd been spared being furloughed for at least a week, though he very much remains in limbo beyond that, CNN Money reported.

And the ripple effects went far beyond the 800,000 Americans, like Merritt, in line to have their paychecks from the federal government evaporate.

Those who conduct business at federal facilities, museums and national parks lost work. A father of six who runs a business at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island had to lay off 110 employees -- including himself.

And those who rely on government services in myriad ways are out of luck.

Like toddlers squabbling over a toy
C.C. Stinson

Head Start programs providing child care -- and thereby allowing parents to go to work -- could begin to close, CNN affiliate WPIX reported. "This is for our kid's life, and this is our life too," said Katimi Bouare, mother of a 4-year-old in a program subsidized by Head Start funds. "[The government] shutting down is like shutting our kids' life down."

Women and children who count on a supplemental nutrition program have to fear the funds possibly drying up.

An aerospace engineer told CNN he had to halt his research.

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And even though the government has vowed to continue paying members of the military, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America warned that the shutdown "does not bode well for top priorities within the veterans' community." If the shutdown lasts longer than 2-3 weeks, the Veterans Administration might not have enough cash to pay benefits in November, the IAVA said.

What would you like to tell Congress or the president?

Here are stories of some Americans immediately affected by the shutdown:

Business owner, father of 6: 'It has a great impact'

Brad Hill operates a gift shop and food service at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island -- both closed in the government shutdown.

"We just today laid off 110 employees, including myself," he told CNN's "New Day" Tuesday.

This comes after Superstorm Sandy, which closed the site for eight months. During that time, 170 employees were let go.

That was "a devastating experience," he sad. "I have six children, and it took a lot to go for eight months with little pay."

"We are all hoping this is a very short layoff," he said of the government shutdown.

As for lawmakers, Hill has a message: "This is the wrong forum to be doing these kinds of activities. They had 364 days to get together on this. This is a time to pass a budget."

Government employee: Don't hold the budget hostage

Larry Hirsch, a federal employee, already took a financial hit from five furlough days during the summer, which were part of the so-called "sequester."

CNN Explains: Sequestration

The shutdown means another "reduction in the funds I take home for my family," he said. Despite word that federal employees might ultimately be paid for their time during the shutdown, Hirsch said the uncertainty remains. "It would be nice to know to plan for our family."

"We're federal employees. Our job is to implement laws and not to hold budget's hostage to a law that's already the law of the land," he told CNN, referring to the health care legislation known as Obamacare that's been targeted by Republicans.

"They have to do their job, get a budget passed, to fund the government and do the services that we're paid to do and American people need."

Military wife: We're being used as pawns

Janet McIntosh wants Congress to take a salary hit. Under current law, Congress continues to be paid during a shutdown.

"See what it feels like to be us, rather than just being up on Capitol Hill, claiming that you're sticking to your values and standing your ground rather than looking for a compromise that helps us, the American people, who put them there," she said on "New Day."

Asked whether she feels that she and other members of military families are being used as pawns, she replied, "Yes, I think the government to a certain extent uses the military and our veterans as well as a pawn while playing this game ...It's tiring for military families. The stress and anxiety being brought so close and worrying about what are we going to do."

While a deal was reached to ensure members of the military are paid, the shutdown is still affecting military families "in other ways, on top of dealing with sequestration" in recent months, McIntosh said.

"It makes you question how much they do care about their military and how it is affecting us. It's kind of like they look at us more of like, 'How can we use them for our gain rather than really worrying about the impact it's having on families and service members?'"

McIntosh added that her faith in government "takes a hit, definitely."

The government uses the military as a pawn while playing this game.
Janet McIntosh

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America said that while veterans "may be more protected than other constituencies, a government shutdown does not bode well for top priorities within the veterans' community."

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said the government shutdown could be a blow to his state's recovering economy, partly because of the affect on military sites. Aside from concerns about pay for military personnel, thousands of civilian workers were furloughed, noted CNN affiliate KCPQ in Seattle.

Attention, travelers: Your plans have changed

Business owner: Take away lawmakers' perks

John Farr owns a lighting company, which has already taken a financial hit from the government shutdown.

"We had an event scheduled at one of the museums in DC today, and it is already canceled. Because of the nature of the event, we don't know if it's coming back," he told "New Day."

A lot of his Washington-area business is at the Smithsonian museums. The shutdown, he says, will "impact my business, my employees, caterers, decorators, florists" and numerous others who take part in events at those locations.

Some employees might not get any other work, he said.

Take away (lawmakers') perks, security details, cars.
John Farr

A newlywed, Farr says the shutdown will prevent him from having the funds to make improvements in the company.

Asked whether lawmakers should focus on compromise or standing firm on principle, he said, "definitely focus more on compromise. Congressmen and senators have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution, and they're not doing it. They're not meeting across the aisle."

"Lawmakers should take significant cuts," he added. "Unfortunately, a lot of them are already (so) financially well off that it won't matter to them. But take away their perks, take away their security details, take away their cars, their company parking spots, anything to make them realize that what they're doing is having an impact on them as well as the public."

'Incredibly frustrating... public servants aren't serving'

Actress Joanna Carpenter has a message for Congress: "Stop wasting my time and my money."

"I work very hard and I don't have a lot of money to show for it," she said on "New Day."

"Living paycheck to paycheck for the majority of my adult life, it's incredibly frustrating to see people that are in public service that are not serving the public. My taxes are going to your salary. You're still getting paid, taking your family out to dinner. I'm figuring out what I'm going to do next week."

'Squabbling like children'

C.C. Stinson, an IT consultant, lives with chronic illness. She wants her medications to be more affordable -- and doesn't want Congress bickering over the Affordable Health Care Act.

A battle over the law led to the shutdown.

"I kind of feel like it's, essentially, when you go to day care and you pick up your children and you see toddlers, you know, squabbling over a toy," she told "New Day."

Scientist can't research

Reheem Bello didn't see it coming.

He studies aerospace engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington.

On Tuesday, due to the shutdown, he found that he couldn't do his research computations, because all NASA websites were down, he told CNN on Facebook.

'No difference from any other day'

But some Americans say they are not immediately feeling any repercussions from the shutdown.

"I can tell absolutely no difference from any other day," Darren Gaskin wrote on Facebook. "Now that the government is shut down, can you make them shut up?"

"It really does not affect me in any way," echoed Andrew Pogue.

As CNN has reported, the government shutdown will affect Americans' daily lives.

Still, some Americans say that so far, the primary impact they're feeling involves their understandings of the government.

"I no longer have even an iota of faith in the US congress," Nicole Davis said on Twitter.

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