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Report: United States

Bewildered New Yorkers await shutdown's effects

Tourists stand next to a sign announcing the closure of the Statue of Liberty, New York, 1 October, 2013
Tourists stand next to a sign announcing the closure of the Statue of Liberty, New York, 1 October, 2013 Reuters/Mike Segar

Budget talks in Washington are continuing, after stalled negotiations saw the federal government shut down at midnight on Monday. But outside of the US capital, Americans are trying to make sense of what this means for them.

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Unlike Washington, a city dominated by government, New York seems largely unaffected by the shutdown – at least on the surface.

The Statue of Liberty and other monuments are closed but  the shutdown is not all that visible.

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“I don’t really understand which services are actually shut down," says New Yorker Kyle Martin. "I mean, I read the paper and I understand, like conceptually what they’re talking about in terms of it being shut down, but I guess I still don’t feel it directly.”

The uncertainty has left others, like student Bianca Bono, concerned about the long term consequences:

“It feels a little confusing, because apparently exhibits are closed at certain museums, and we’re apparently going to go into mayhem and things are going to start falling apart," she says. "I mean, who really knows what could happen at this point?”

For the moment, services like prisons, the military or the post are continuing to operate.

Federal courts will continue to function for another 10 days and air traffic control services are expected to continue.

But the immediate effects are likely to be felt by the nation’s poorest.

Benefits like social security and Medicare are expected to continue for the moment, although long-term unemployment benefit will be cut by 7.2 per cent at the end of the week.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is at risk of shutting down. The programme gives around nine million low-income pregnant women or mothers access to food vouchers.

The sense that this situation has been created by insular political squabbles has angered others in New York.

“I don’t like being held hostage as an American citizen,” comments Chris, a tax attorney, echoing the New YorkDaily News's Tuesday headline, “House of Turds”, directed at President Barack Obama's Republican opponents. 

"They've taken the entire government hostage," Chris goes on. "They’re putting a gun to everybody’s head and saying if you don’t do what we say, even though we can’t do it the way we’re supposed to, then we won’t fund your government. They’re holding everybody hostage.”

A federal system means that the US outside Washington is still up and running. But how long for depends on whether talks in the nation's capital drag on.

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