Federal shutdown begins to take its toll in Massachusetts

A group of tourists from France arrived by the busload Tuesday morning ready to explore a piece of Americana, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum, only to be turned away.

The same at the historic Great Hall at Faneuil Hall, where visitors found a blocked entrance.

Federal government communications workers shuttered Twitter accounts, and even websites.

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And thousands of workers across the state arrived at their offices only to be told they would be furloughed—no work and no pay.

The shutdown of the federal government, which began on Tuesday, the result of infighting in Washington, D.C., and Congress’s failure to approve a spending plan, has already begun to have a ripple effect across Massachusetts, terminating services, closing offices and parks, and delaying programs.

Parking lots and offices at the Cape Cod National Seashore, for instance, had signs that read, “closed due to government shutdown.”

“The impact for visitors is pretty intense,” said George Price, the park’s superintendent, who said roughly 120 workers were furloughed, including himself.

Even this weekend’s Boston College home football game against the US Army is in jeopardy, because the US Department of Defense has suspended all intercollegiate athletic competitions involving service teams.

Governor Deval Patrick said he was on a conference call with White House officials and governors from across the country and, “Democrats and Republicans, and everyone was frustrated and stunned, and wondering what happens to services for our most vulnerable citizens.”

While federal officials have estimated that the shutdown could put 29,000 federal employees in Massachusetts out of work, Patrick administration officials said Tuesday that they were still counting how many people have been furloughed.

The governor added that approximately 4,000 state workers whose jobs are largely funded by federal programs could be affected.

Jake Sullivan, Boston’s chief of staff for intergovernmental relations, said that federally funded city programs, such as the redevelopment of the Old Colony housing project in South Boston and certain small business loans and fuel assistance programs, have already received funding and will not be immediately affected. But he said continued funding for those programs and others could be in jeopardy.

“If this drags on, it becomes a very large concern for us,” he said. “It creates a lot of economic harm on the city’s ability to make loans to small businesses, support homeowners, provide services for the elderly.”

Sullivan added, “These are not programs that created the budget deficit. These are programs that created economic vitality in our town.”

Some federal programs will be unaffected, at least for the time being. Federal courthouses throughout Massachusetts will remain open for now, and officials will reassess court finances on Oct. 15 if the shutdown is ongoing. Law enforcement officials remain at work.

And employees whose jobs have been declared essential have reported to work, such as food inspectors and air traffic controllers. But with the shutdown in place, they are working without getting paid, and it is unclear if they will be.

“They are going to work, but not being made whole,” said Meghan Walsh, federal legislative director with the National Association of Government Employees, a labor union that represents workers from the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration, among others.

“There’s just a fear that these employees are performing the work right now, then the funding won’t be there,” Walsh added.

In other cases, she said, employees are coming into work and being sent home, without work or pay.

A nurse who works at the John F. Kennedy Federal Building in downtown Boston, who asked that her name not be used, said the waiting game to learn whether she will have a job was nerve-wracking.

“It is, because you live paycheck to paycheck,” she said, adding that one worker who was sent home earlier in the day was stunned and said, “I feel lost.”

Rachel Day Flor, director of communications for the JFK Library Foundation, said that about 50 employees at the federally funded library in Dorchester arrived at work Tuesday morning, only to receive layoff notices.

And throughout the day, visitors arrived at the library, including the tourists from France, only to find it closed.

“They had to be turned away, unfortunately,” she said, adding that the library hosts several private events that it has had to cancel, resulting in the loss of revenue. The library has several public forums planned in the coming weeks, but those gatherings will be relocated if the government shutdown remains in place.

Throughout the city, state, and country, federal parks and museums were closed to visitors.

“It’s just unfortunate … people plan their holidays,” said Laurie Bechtler, 55, who lives in California, as she stood outside the closed-down Great Hall.

Academic institutions and research centers that rely on federal funding were also affected, including the Woods Hole Science Aquarium.

A spokeswoman for the aquarium, who was furloughed Tuesday, could not be reached for comment, however.

Her e-mail address sent out an automatic reply reading, “I am currently unavailable to take e-mails or phone calls due to the lapse in FY14 appropriations. If you leave a message, I will be unable to respond until an appropriations bill has passed and operations are resumed. I sincerely regret this inconvenience.”