The federal government shutdown is forcing thousands of Floridians to stay home from work indefinitely, including rangers such as Linda Friar in Everglades National Park. She spoke about the furloughs that began Tuesday, while Swiss tourist Adrian Stalder commented on the shutdown.
The federal government shutdown is forcing thousands of Floridians to stay home from work indefinitely, from Everglades National Park to the Florida Panhandle.
At federal facilities around South Florida, furloughed employees worked only half a day Tuesday – just enough time to pack up and get out.
“We all came to work today to shut down our work stations,” said Linda Friar, a park ranger at Everglades National Park.
It was very quiet there Tuesday. The walking paths were empty, the visitors center locked up, and boaters won't be able to launch from within the park until further notice.
The furloughs are taking place after Congress failed to agree on a national spending plan by a midnight deadline. It’s the first government shutdown since 1996.
Everglades National Park is one of 11 parks that are closed in Florida – though state-run parks remain open.
The shutdown has also caused several Head Start programs to close, and about half of those working in the Florida National Guard have been sent home, according to Capitol News Service. Those troops already had to take off 11 days earlier this year due to federal sequester budget cuts.
South Florida Congresswoman Lois Frankel, a Democrat, is not happy.
"I am furious. I didn’t come here to stall government. There’s so much opportunity, so much good that Congress can do for the American people,” she said. “So I share their frustration, but I stand ready to march right back into the chambers and vote to get government back on track."
While President Barack Obama and other Democrats are urging Republicans in Congress to re-open the government, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, placed blame for the shutdown squarely on the president’s shoulders.
“President Obama is failing Floridians,” Scott said. “As Harry Truman said, ‘The buck stops with the president.’ This is a failure of leadership.”
Swiss tourists Adrian Stalder and his family got word of the shutdown as they drove into Everglades National Park.
“If you are here as a tourist and if they close everything, it would be a pity,” Stalder said. “And of course also for the people who work here. That’s everything.”
Friar, the park ranger, said she would take a few days off, “maybe go to the beach, and wait for Congress to make a decision.”
She said she’d prefer not to be furloughed.
While the government shutdown of 2013 just started, many are hoping it ends soon.
“There are families that have two employees that work for the Park Service,” Friar said. “I know that's going to be really tough for some of them, and it's going to be a challenging time. We really are hoping it's not extended.”