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Government Shutdown Takes A Toll Across D.C.


Of the hundreds of thousands of federal workers not working because of the shutdown, many are, of course, here in Washington, D.C. The region is home to dozens of federal agencies, from Homeland Security to the Environmental Protection Agency. NPR's Allison Keyes spoke with some of those affected.

ALLISON KEYES, BYLINE: Expressways usually clogged with traffic were whizzing along this morning. The usually frenetic subway stop near a glut of federal offices by the National Mall was almost empty and so were the streets. That's not surprising when in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia region, more than 350,000 people work for the federal government. But the conversation among those few heading into and out of government buildings was all about how bad this is going to be.

JARED COBBS: That's another one of those uncertainties.

KEYES: Jared Cobbs is a contract consultant with the United States Department of Agriculture. And because his position was declared nonessential, he's out of a job until the congressional impasse is resolved. But Cobbs has a two-and-a-half-year-old son.

COBBS: Just because the government stops, our lives don't stop. You know, kids still have to go to daycare.

KEYES: He says lawmakers need to get it together fast.

COBBS: This is something that I wish both parties could agree on because it's a mess for those people who actually are affected by this due to the fact that this is our income. You know, this is our livelihood.

MOJDEH SUPOLA: I'm not optimistic. I think it's going to be a while.

KEYES: Mojdeh Supola works for the FAA and came in this morning to suspend her email, close out mailboxes and things like that. Her husband is also off work thanks to the shutdown, but she's not surprised lawmakers didn't settle this.

SUPOLA: It seems like we're getting into that pattern, right?

KEYES: She says lawmakers ought to think about how this looks outside of this country.

SUPOLA: I mean, how would you look if you look divided?

KEYES: Over in Virginia at the Pentagon, employees were disappointed in the government. Many here were already hit by sequestration and lost six days of pay over the summer.

CARRIE MODZELEWSKI: I don't care what your view is on the politics in this situation. I think right now, it's a moral situation because you have people going without pay.

KEYES: Carrie Modzelewski is a financial analyst for the Marine Corps and says it's scary that Congress would hit federal employees with this shutdown right after some had to dip into their savings in the furlough situation.

MODZELEWSKI: It's not like federal employees can just go out and get another job because working at McDonald's isn't going to pay your bills when you're used to a certain lifestyle.

KEYES: Back in Washington, Sami Solomon dumps ice into soda bins at the usually busy hotdog cart at the subway station near federal offices ranging from the FAA to the Department of Transportation. He's worried about more than a certain lifestyle.

SAMI SOLOMON: Yeah. There's no people, no business.

KEYES: He hopes this is over tomorrow.

SOLOMON: If the whole week, it's going to hurt.

KEYES: The biggest concern for Washington, D.C. residents like Anna Kelma, though, is how this affects the economy.

ANNA KELMA: I work for a restaurant and we take buses of students that come to D.C., and that's a lot of revenue.

KEYES: Like everyone else NPR spoke to, Kelma wants to see Congress suck it up and get the government running so people can get paid. Allison Keyes, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Allison Keyes is an award-winning journalist with almost 20 years of experience in print, radio, and television. She has been reporting for NPR's national desk since October 2005. Her reports can be heard on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition Sunday.