Far away from the federal office complexes in Washington, small US towns and cities with workforces dependent on government jobs are beginning to feel the pinch of the three-week-old shutdown, currently the third-longest in history.

The snowy streets of Ogden, Utah, are quiet these days. Parking lots are half-empty. Restaurant sales have dropped. Without federal workers to serve, Bickering Sisters cafe has cut the hours of its lunch service.

More than 4000 federal employees who work for the IRS and US Forest Service have been kept away from their jobs in this outdoorsy haven north of Salt Lake City. The closing of federal offices has reverberated across this city of 87,000, where roughly a third of annual revenue comes from the sales tax.

Many of the affected federal workers - including 10,000 people in Utah, 6200 in West Virginia and 5500 in Alabama - have salaries far below the average US$85,000 for government employees. But that pay drives local economies, and workers are starting to make tough choices about how to spend them - eating out less, limiting travel and shopping at food pantries instead of grocery stores - creating a ripple effect through the neighbourhoods and towns where they live.

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With US President Donald Trump predicting that the shutdown could last months, these towns are preparing for a long-term economic blow.

"The lunches that are missed and the shopping that is missed, people are staying at home, and that really hurts our small-business community," said Tom Christopulos, director of community and economic development for Ogden. He expects that the town will take a hit on its weekly sales tax revenue of US$314,000, which could delay parks and roads projects.

Foot traffic along the historic 25th Street commercial corridor has dropped dramatically - and so have sales at Marcy Rizzi's bookstore two blocks away from the James Hansen Federal Building.

The shutdown "definitely has an impact," said Rizzi, owner of Booked on 25th.

Other shopkeepers she knows are "more liberal leaning," so they already had misgivings about the government under Trump, she said. But now that he is "willing to impact local, everyday citizens over a wall? You hear people (complaining) about that".

IRS employee Krystle Kirkpatrick, 31, said she and her family of four can scrape along on her partner's machinists salary for a while, but she's already thinking about signing up to be a plasma donor to earn some extra cash. That would bring in US$200.

"It's not okay with me for my job to be used as a bargaining chip when people on either side don't get what they want and they can't come to an agreement. I just want to work."

Trump met White House staffers at Camp David.

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"We're looking at a national emergency because we have a national emergency," Trump told reporters. He said he may act unilaterally to secure wall funding "depending on what happens over the next few days".

The legality of such a move is unclear and the President would almost certainly face immediate legal challenges.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said Trump's words were just "threatening talk" with no power behind them.

After bowing to his base and refusing to compromise with Democrats, Schiff said, Trump needs to "figure out how he unpaints himself from that corner".

Park service now dipping into entrance fees amid shutdown

A road lined with trash in Yosemite National Park. Photo / AP
A road lined with trash in Yosemite National Park. Photo / AP

The US National Park Service will take the unprecedented step of tapping entrance fees to pay for expanded operations at its most popular sites, as the shutdown threatens to degrade iconic landmarks.

Under a memorandum signed by the Interior Department's acting secretary, David Bernhardt, park managers will be permitted to bring on additional staff to clean restrooms, haul rubbish, patrol the parks and open areas that have been shut during the budget impasse.

The move shows the extent to which the Trump Administration's decision to keep the park system open is straining its capacity.

During such shutdowns under the Clinton and Obama administrations, the Park Service chose to block access to its sites rather than leave them open with a skeleton staff. Democrats and some park advocates question whether the park-fee move is legal, because the money parks collect under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act are to support visitor services not operations and basic maintenance.