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#ShutdownStories: Federal Employees Reveal Impact of Government Closure
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=49266"><span class="small">Khushbu Shah, Guardian UK</span></a>   
Wednesday, 26 December 2018 09:26

Shah writes: "Federal employees affected by the partial shutdown of the US government have been voicing their frustrations of spending the holidays worrying about their next paycheck."

The area next to the National Christmas Tree is closed in Washington DC on 24 December as part of the partial government shutdown. (photo: Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images)
The area next to the National Christmas Tree is closed in Washington DC on 24 December as part of the partial government shutdown. (photo: Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images)


#ShutdownStories: Federal Employees Reveal Impact of Government Closure

By Khushbu Shah, Guardian UK

26 December 18


Social media posts from the frontline catalogue tales of disruption and hardship imposed by shutdown of 25% of government

ederal employees affected by the partial shutdown of the US government have been voicing their frustrations of spending the holidays worrying about their next paycheck.

Donald Trump marked Christmas Day by insisting the shutdown will last until his demand for funds to build a wall on the US-Mexico border is met.

The US government partially shut down at midnight on Friday evening, and there is no sign yet of tangible efforts to reopen agencies closed by a political impasse over the president’s demand for border wall funds.

The shutdown is partial because 75% of government funding was already approved for the budget year that started in October. It’s the other 25% of government spending that’s at issue, and was expected to cut off spending for the departments of homeland security, justice and transportation among others.

Under the #shutdownstories hashtag, government employees are sharing strategies of surviving paycheck to paycheck, and expressing worries about their mortgages and paying for Christmas gifts.

John Deal, a Nasa contractor in Virginia, whose wife also works for the agency, posted online to say his family had lost 100% of their income, for the time being, because of the shutdown. On top of that his son’s tuition fee is due at George Washington University in four weeks, he added.

“I budget ahead of time for Christmas and have saved for my son’s college tuition that will be due soon. So the burden of the shutdown for my family is more [of a] concern for my [family’s] living expense in the near future. Paying my mortgage, groceries & truck payment, etc,” he told the Guardian on Christmas Day.

More than 400,000 federal employees deemed “essential” are expected to continue to work through the shutdown, to ensure that critical operations in government proceed. But these workers are not likely to receive any compensation until it ends, and legislation will need to be passed to pay them retroactively.

More than 380,000 federal employees also face furloughs – unpaid time off – though Congress could pass legislation to pay workers for any pay missed as a result of furloughs.

More than 400,000 employees have been furloughed, including 41,000 federal law enforcement and corrections staffers, 88% of Department of Homeland Security employees and 5,000 US Forest Service firefighters, and 3,600 National Weather Service forecasters, data from Senator Patrick Leahy’s office indicates.

On the National Park Service website, a post in red warns the website will not be updated, adding: “Some parks are closed completely. Some visitor services may be available when provided by concessioners or other entities. For most parks, there will be no National Park Service-provided visitor services, such as restrooms, trash collection, facilities or road maintenance.”

A park ranger, Sharon Stiteler, reposted a blog from 2013 with advice on coping through a shutdown along with what she was doing this time around to make it through the holidays. In one tweet on the first day of the furlough, she listed: “Got my furlough papers. Had brunch with fellow feds. Obsessively checked news and bank accounts. Contemplated a “#shutdownbeard.”

According to a National Treasury Employees Union survey released on Christmas Eve, nearly 80% of federal employees responding said there were very concerned about the furlough. “Just in case anyone still thinks a partial shutdown over a holiday weekend is harmless, think again,” the NTEU national president, Tony Reardon, said in a statement accompanying the release of the survey results.

Some good samaritans offered help to those worried about making ends meet. Taylor Futch tweeted her that husband, an employee of the National Park Service, had signed his furlough papers and, with a looming mortgage payment and Christmas in full swing, she was worried.

Despite not getting paid, she added, her husband was still out working, “because he loves what he does, and he wants to ensure our children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy it one day”.

In response to her post, a stranger with an affinity for the national parks, offered to help pay the mortgage: “You don’t know me, but my grandfather was a game warden in Montana and we spent our vacations going to our [two] national parks,” Ryan D Leaf said. “Anna, and my son McGyver & I would love to help with your mortgage if you will allow. #MerryXmas,” he added.

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+2 # ER444 2018-12-26 14:40
Merry Christmas, Mr. Trump. Your trip to Iraq is exactly the same kind of political stunt that sending troops to the Mexican border was before the election. I hope it has the same effect. Your border is a waste of money. Punishing innocent American workers for your political games is the same as letting children die in camps on the border. We need to get this man out of Washington as fast as possible!!! I beg Mr. Trump's cabinet to get some balls and put this man in an appropriate institution. The last message, Mr. Pence, throw away the key. No pardon!!