Gov't Shutdown Would Close Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Tourists hoping to visit the Statue of Liberty would be shut out amid a federal government shutdown.

    If Congress fails to reach a budget deal before midnight Friday, thousands of federal employees in New York and New Jersey will be temporarily out of work.

    The ten national parks and historic sites in the New York metropolitan area will be immediately shut down, resulting in the furloughing of at least 1000 “nonessential” government workers. New York City is home to about 51,000 federal government workers.  Some still do not know whether their jobs will be classified as "nonessential."

    Across the country, some 800,000 employees -- most of them in Washington D.C. -- will be sent home without pay should the government close.  

    The Statue of Liberty, Grant’s Tomb, and Ellis Island are among the national parks that will be closed in the event of a shutdown. According to Darren Boch, spokesman for the National Park Service, the Statue of Liberty gets about 10,000 visitors a day in April.

    “The economic impact will really be felt by the ferry and the food and merchandise concessionaires,” said Boch. “There’s a lot of revenue associated with operating a national park.”

    The National Park Service employs about 550 people in New York City, not including national park police and concession workers.

    According to Boch, the park service already has a plan for a possible shutdown. “We have identified which workers would continue working and which would be furloughed. The vast majority of workers will be furloughed,” said Boch.

    Tourists visiting New York are amending plans to visit some of the national sites.  Karen Bettencourt, who is visiting the city this week, says she was worried she would miss out on seeing the Statue of Liberty. 

    "We were planning our trip and thinking what if there's going to be a shutdown. We need to go to the statue today in case there is a shut down....it was worth it.  It gave me chills, bumps, and made me want to cry."

    Government officials say public safety and national security agencies, including FBI, DEA, military and Homeland Security, will continue to operate no matter what. 

    But FBI Director Robert Mueller told Congress on Wednesday that a shutdown could harm the bureau's ability to fight crime.  He said FBI investigations, such as combating child pornography and white-collar crime could be hindered.

    The FBI's ability to train new agents would also be affected, Mueller told a U.S. Senate subcommittee considering the bureau's 2012 budget request.

    The shutdown would not immediately impact the United States Post Office or IRS, and taxpayers who file electronically should not see a delay in their refunds.   Those who file by snail mail will.

    But a shutdown would put applications for passports and visas on hold. If the shutdown continues through tax day, returns filed on paper will not be processed, leaving a third of all tax returns unread.

    Sam Negtalov, who runs a rush passport office, says the shut down would be horrible for his business and those who need to get a "rush" passport -- or one issued in two weeks instead of the standard six to eight weeks. 

    "Basically, we're out of business until they (the government) reopen," he said.

    Though military personnel are considered essential, there are also questions about pay.  In Iraq on Thursday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told troops that if the government closes, their next paycheck would be for half the normal amount and they wouldn't receive a check at all the following pay period if the shutdown continued.

    Gates told them they could expect to get paid eventually for all their work, but the news had many military families very worried.