Thousands Of Federal Workers In Mass. Face Furloughs

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Roughly 30,000 people draw federal pay in Massachusetts, according to federal statistics. Estimates say about a quarter of them will be furloughed as a result of the partial government shutdown. They'll stay off the job until Congress agrees on a stop-gap funding measure to pay their salaries.

“Here we go again, we have the same Congress, not doing their jobs to give us an opportunity to do our jobs, and it's very frustrating," said John Saulnier, a grants administrator for the U.S. Department of Labor. He and about three dozen others protested the pending shutdown at a downtown rally in Boston Monday. He said the massive JFK federal building where he works is going to be a ghost town.

"It's pretty much set that if we go out, if it's shut down, all of us will be shut down," he said.

The word's the same at the National Park Service. Workers at the USS Constitution and the Bunker Hill Monument* — they won't be needed because most Park Service facilities are closing (although the Boston Harbor Islands will stay open).

"All those employees who are going to be furloughed will get their official notices," explained National Park Services spokesman Sean Hennessey. "They'll be asked to change the greeting on their voicemail and on their email. They'll be asked to shut down their computers, turn off their government-issued cellphones and turn off the lights and leave the premises."

But federal workers whose jobs are needed to protect life or property will remain on duty. Property, by the way, includes entitlement benefits such as Social Security and unemployment checks. So they'll be in the mail — which will be delivered, because stamps, not taxes, finance the U.S. Postal Service.

But if you are making a first-time application for federal benefits or, say, a federally backed small business loan, you'll probably have to wait. Michael Kane, of the advocacy group Budget for All, said he expects a delay in an American rite-of-passage of sorts: enrolling in Medicare.

"I'm ready to sign up for Medicare next week when I turn 65, but if the government is shut down, I can't do that," he said.

Federal law enforcement, including the FBI, will stay on the job. Same for active-duty military — although as many as half the civilian defense workers at places like Hanscom Air Force Base could be idled.

And there will be spinoff effects.

"A lot of the people we get on their lunch break come by and get either lunch and we can sell our sandwiches or dessert after they eat their own lunch, and it would really cut down on our business a lot," explained Andrew Lloyd, who sells pastries from Pain D'Avignon at a farmer's market a stone's throw from the JFK building and its thousands of federal workers.

Lloyd isn't the only one hoping that by next week's market, all federal workers are back to work.

Correction: Due to incorrect information provided to WBUR, an earlier version of this report stated that the African Meeting House would close in a shutdown. It is open.

This article was originally published on October 01, 2013.

This program aired on October 1, 2013.


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