After waiting for close to an hour for the Oklahoma City Social Security Administration offices to open, Marsha Johnson left less than a minute after she walked through the glass doors inside Shepherd Mall.
She told a long line of people outside that if they came for a new Social Security card they might as well leave now.
“They said that they couldn't accommodate that because they are shut down,” said the 53-year-old Johnson. Johnson, who is new to the Social Security disability program, said she was told she would not be able to get a replacement card until the shutdown is resolved. Johnson said she needs her card to ensure she can receive benefit services.
She is one of many Oklahomans who are running into roadblocks when seeking basic services from federal government programs as the state begins feeling the effects of the government shutdown brought on by Washington's inability to pass spending legislation.
A little over an hour south of Oklahoma City in Sulphur, park rangers at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area closed gates and hung signs on hiking trails telling visitors the park is closed until further notice.
The park is a major part of the local economy. The recreation area hosts close to 3,500 visitors each day in October and stands to lose $2,000 per day in lost campground fees during the shutdown, according to a news release from the park.
Shelly Sawapzky, executive director of the Sulphur Chamber of Commerce, said her office has been receiving calls from disgruntled citizens hoping to visit the park's campgrounds, natural springs, and bison overlook. Sawapzky said the shutdown is even affecting local hunters.
“One of the things that the park is popular for this time of year is hunting, and yesterday was the first day of archery season for deer,” Sawapzky said. “This is the first year in several years that bucks can be taken in the park, and so the hunters are a little outraged.”
The park's website is not being maintained, and the majority of its workers started furlough Wednesday.
Concerns for troops
Across the state, thousands of federal employees are being furloughed or told to report to work without pay until appropriations are put back in place by Congress.
According to James Schmidt, president of the American Federation for Government Employees Local 916, 2,900 Tinker Air Force Base employees are currently on furlough. There are 8,000 working until federal funding that is already in place runs out.
Greg Ross, an aircraft mechanic at Tinker and a disabled veteran, is one of those working without pay.
Ross, who has already gone through furloughs, said the recent lack of stability that is generally associated with government work is causing him and others to consider seeking employment in the private sector.
Ross also worries that the lack of services he and other mechanics normally provide will leave American service members serving overseas with less than optimal resources.
“The job that we do provides mission capable, mission ready aircraft to those troops who are on the ground that are over there fighting a war,” Ross said. “So, if we're not over here doing the scheduled maintenance for the aircraft that we're supposed to, then that limits the resources that can go and support our troops.”
While he believes that the Oklahoma National Guard will still be able to provide support to Oklahoma soldiers on the ground in combat zones, Col. Max Moss said Ross' concern is valid when applied to duties within the state.
“Where it can potentially correlate is, every time you see a helicopter or an F-16 or a military truck on the roads here in Oklahoma there are several federal technicians that have a significant hand in making that happen,” Moss said. “Without them turning wrenches and fixing equipment, our ability to respond in certain situations will be degraded.”
Moss said 700 National Guard employees, roughly one-third of their workforce, are currently furloughed. All of those 700 workers are federal technicians.