Federal Shutdown Day 1: Preschoolers and Influenza Programs Hit

Head Start students are among the first Americans sidelined by the ongoing budget crisis, ironically during Head Start Awareness Month

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Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

A security barricade stops traffic on the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, October 1, 2013.

Museums were shuttered, national parks closed, panda cams were switched off and some low-income students stayed home from preschool on Tuesday as the closure of the federal government went into effect.

As an estimated 800,000 non-essential federal employees went on unpaid leave during the  budgetary impasse, government agencies and communities across America began bearing the brunt of the cutbacks.

With fall approaching, the Center for Disease Control was forced to halt its seasonal influenza program, which monitors flu patterns and manages vaccines across the nation.

(MORE: How Badly Will the Shutdown Hurt the U.S. Economy?)

NASA sent 97% of its 18,000 employees home this week; however, the two American astronauts living and working 240 miles above Earth at the International Space Station were deemed essential employees and kept on the payroll.

In Talladega, Alabama more than 700 preschoolers couldn’t go to class. During an interview with NPR, Dora Jones, the director of the regional Head Start Program in Talladega, said she began receiving phone calls around 5:00am on Tuesday from concerned parents who rely on the program to look after their children during work hours.

“I mean, we have so many concerns and very few answers to give people that’s satisfactory to help them to give them any relief at this time,” said Jones.

In all, 23 similar programs in 11 states have run out of federal grant money and educators fear more closures will come as alternative sources of funds run dry. Ironically, October is Head Start Awareness Month.

Political theatrics resumed in Washington on Tuesday with finger pointing coming from both sides of the aisle. But moderate Republicans began showing signs of breaking ranks from more hardline elements. House Representative Scott Rigell said his fellow Republicans had “fought the good fight” but admitted that the conservative cause was not “not advanced by a government shutdown that damages our economy and harms our military.”

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama said he had no plans to bow to conservatives, who are calling for the financial evisceration of the Affordable Healthcare Act before voting on a bill that would allow federal funding to resume.

“This shutdown is about rolling back our efforts to provide health insurance to folks who don’t have it.  It’s all about rolling back the Affordable Care Act,” said President Obama during a televised speech from the Rose Garden yesterday.  “This, more than anything else, seems to be what the Republican Party stands for these days.”

More than a million people visited the government website, www.healthcare.gov, to learn about a new program under the Affordable Health Care Act  that launched on Tuesday. The scheme will allow uninsured and insured Americans to purchase healthcare exchanges. However, there were reports of myriad technical glitches as users attempted to work the site, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Meanwhile, as a result of the shutdown President Obama scaled back an upcoming four-day tour of Southeast Asia, canceling visits to Malaysia and the Philippines after he heads to Saturday’s APEC summit in Bali, Indonesia.

MORE: Obama Blames ‘Ransom’ Demand for ‘Republican Shutdown’