Mass. historic sites, citizens feel shutdown effect
BOSTON — The John F. Kennedy Museum, the U.S.S. Constitution and the Bunker Hill Monument closed, and children at one Head Start program faced the loss of meals as Massachusetts grappled with the fallout of a partial government shutdown Tuesday.
The shutdown also forced the closure of the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick and prompted furloughs at Westover Air Reserve Base and Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield.
Many of the thousands of federal employees who live in Massachusetts were also out of work as a result of the shutdown.
Gov. Deval Patrick said the state will do what it can to help plug some of the holes left by the shutdown, including the Head Start meals, but added that there’s no way the state can make up for a failure of the federal government to remain open.
“You know how tight our budget is and I think the answer to that is largely no,” Patrick said.
Patrick also said there are over 4,000 people who work in state government who are either paid in full or in part by federal grants.
The most immediate effect was the closing of the many historic sites that draw visitors to Massachusetts from around the world.
Jurgen Iserhardt and Marco Thoma, came from Cologne, Germany, to visit Boston but were out of luck when they went to look for a bathroom inside historic Faneuil Hall. The site of town meetings, political debates and speeches since the 1700s is operated by the National Park Service.
“We didn’t expect something like this. The restrooms are closed?” Iserhardt said, as he read a sign announcing the closure. “Sorry for the inconvenience,” the sign said, directing visitors to restrooms in a nearby building.
The building’s “Great Hall” was also closed.
“This is my first visit to Boston,” said Patricia Rance of San Diego. “I’m very disappointed,”
Patrick said a Head Start center in western Massachusetts is one of 22 across the country that could run out of money because of the shutdown.
Patrick said the center gets a small portion of its budget from the state and his administration would try to advance it some money to help them get through the next week or so.
Tourist officials were quick to point out that some sites remained open, including the Paul Revere House and the Old North Church. Visitors can still walk Boston’s popular Freedom Trail, although they won’t have guided tours.
The visitor center for the Minuteman National Park in Lexington also closed and there were no guided tours of the 5-mile Battle Road between Concord and Lexington.
The Massachusetts Statehouse remained open, and guides continued to give tours of the building.
But an extended shutdown could have an even deeper impact on services, including prompting delays in providing winter heating assistance for low-income residents, according to Aaron Gornstein, undersecretary of the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development.
Without a federal budget bill, states cannot determine the level of benefits for the coming winter and local agencies won’t be able to process applications, he said.
“It’s going to hurt a lot of low-income families unless we have the government up and running again very quickly,” Gornstein said.
Judiciary officials said federal courts in Massachusetts will remain open for at least 10 business days. Robert Farrell, clerk of court for the Massachusetts district, said that the federal judiciary will reassess its situation on or around Oct. 15.