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October 3, 2013

Who knew? Shutdown casualties shatter stereotypes

WASHINGTON — Taking out a mortgage. Getting married in a park. Going for a fall foliage drive. Cashing a check.

Who knew that so many random activities of daily life could be imperiled by a shutdown of the federal government?

Americans are finding that “the government” entails a lot more than the stereotype of faceless D.C. bureaucrats cranking out red tape.

And so it is that two dozen October weddings, including nine this week, are in jeopardy because they’re scheduled for monument sites on the National Mall. Ditto for a New Jersey couple planning to marry at the Grand Canyon.

Mike Cassesso and MaiLien Le’s permit to get married Saturday on the lawn near the Jefferson Memorial looks to be among the casualties, giving rise to a new Twitter hashtag for their (hash)shutdownwedding. They’re looking at alternate sites, including the restaurant booked for their reception.

Also canceled: a weekend Ku Klux Klan rally at Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

Want to take a drive along Virginia’s popular Skyline Drive to take in the fall colors in Shenandoah National Park? Not till the government reopens.

It’s not just romance, tourism and public events that are in jeopardy.

Consider the Wisconsin farmer who can’t cash a check for a cow he sold.

Ben Brancel, the state’s agriculture secretary, said that because the farmer has a loan from the Farm Service Agency, he can’t cash the check without both his own signature and one from an FSA official, unavailable during the shutdown.

“Our advice to him was he was going to have to wait, that there wasn’t anything he could do about it,” Brancel said.

Ready to buy your first house?

Borrowers applying for a mortgage can expect delays, especially if the shutdown is prolonged. That’s because many lenders need government confirmation of applicants’ income tax returns and Social Security data. Mortgage industry officials say they expect bottlenecks on closing loans if the shutdown stretches on for more than a few days.

In addition, low- to moderate-income borrowers and first-time homebuyers seeking government-insured mortgages for single-family homes from the Federal Housing Administration can expect longer waits because of sharp reductions in FHA staffing.

Even workers who get their paychecks from a state government aren’t safe from the ripple effects of a federal shutdown.

An assortment of state workers around the country are on furlough because the money for their jobs includes dollars from Washington. Among those are hundreds of workers at Arkansas’ Military Department and one at the Crowley’s Ridge Technical Institute, a vocational school in Forrest City, Ark.

In Illinois, the furloughs include 20 workers in the state Department of Employment Security and 53 in the Department of Military Affairs.

“These are the first, and there may be more,” said Abdon Pallasch, the state’s assistant budget director.

Want to escape the shutdown worries with a bike ride on the C&O Canal, a popular 184-mile trail and national park between Washington and Cumberland, Md.?

Closed. Those thinking of ignoring the closure notice and going anyway should consider this: Restrooms will be locked and handles removed from water pumps along the way.

One possible silver lining to shutdown annoyances writ small and large: The whole thing could serve as a teachable moment for all those people who tell pollsters that they want budget cuts — as long as they aren’t directly affected.

“As time goes by, more and more people see these little things that they took for granted,” said Ed Lorenzen, a policy adviser at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan group pushing for spending discipline.

He said the shutdown could serve as a reminder that “you’re not going to be able to the balance the budget just by cutting spending in Washington that doesn’t affect people.”

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Associated Press writer Andrew Miga contributed to this report.

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Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nbenac

 

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