The current government shutdown, which began on December 22, 2018, is the longest in American history. Yet many of us, if we're being honest, have probably not felt much of a change. Maybe the line at the airport was a little longer coming home from holiday travel, but so what, right? But for approximately 800,000 employees living without pay, the consequences are very real, pressing and dire. While the exact number of parents directly affected by this loss of income is unknown, Romper spoke with eight moms affected by the government shutdown. Because while most Americans are able to go on with "business as usual," for these parents it's anything but.
The crux of this standoff is the battle between President Trump and congressional Democrats over $5 billion of funding for a border wall between the United States and Mexico. "The Wall," though unpopular among the population at large, was a campaign promise that galvanized Trump's "tough on immigration" base. Upon taking the House of Representatives on January 3, Democrats and a handful of Republicans swiftly passed two bills to fund the government that did not include funding for the border wall. Yet while the bills were almost identical to the measures passed by the Senate before the new Congress was sworn in, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate GOP leaders will not bring them to a vote.
The future of the shutdown remains unclear, and this uncertainty is preying on every facet of the lives of furloughed government workers and those still working, but without pay. According to a study of Federal data by MagnifyMoney.com, the median American household has approximately $4,830 in savings and almost a third of households have less than $1,000. Considering the average rent in U.S. is approximately $1,400, living without a paycheck for even a short amount of time can be a devastating hardship and that's not even counting the other expenses in raising a family, such as food, utilities, transportation, and childcare...
So while most of us have the luxury of not feeling the direct impact of this impasse (for now), here's how eight families are dealing with this enormous blow.
I think our 5-year-old understands that something different is going on, though she doesn't really understand what it is.
Editor's Note: Some moms were not comfortable sharing certain identifying details, such as full names, locations, or employment details.
"Daniella," mom of two in Arlington, Virginia
"I have two kids with disabilities. ... My husband is a government contractor. I have a mortgage, utilities, the kids need food. We have a $4,000 co-pay for one medication which my son absolutely requires to stay alive, and we have other medical expenses. For next month, if we don't get a paycheck, which looks likely at this point, we'll have to choose between paying the mortgage and for [our son's] meds. It's pretty much all stress, all the time, all over the spectrum. ... We're skirting bankruptcy all the time. All of our money goes to medical expenses. We don't have any margin. We're living paycheck to paycheck and we're S.O.L."
Mandi, mom of two in Fort Pierce, Florida — Air traffic controller
"My husband and I are both FAA Air Traffic Controllers. We’re both not being paid, but are still working full time. Honestly, [before the shutdown] we were slightly ahead financially and had a small buffer of savings. We have a new house and two kids in school / daycare. For this first missed paycheck, we were able to stay afloat and still pay bills. We’ve been putting a lot of expenses on credit to leave the cash flow for only those bills which required that type of payment. I wasn’t concerned at first, assuming this would be over quick... the more days that go by without resolution, the fear intensifies.
"I’ve borrowed money from my dad already, and if we miss another paycheck at the end of the month, I’ll have to take out a small loan. Air traffic control is a pretty stressful job to begin with. Right now, we’re having to handle the stress of work and the added stress of upcoming expenses, coordinating with each creditor about extensions, and trying to decide how to balance paying for things on credit or cash. It’s just unnecessary drama to an already stressful life."
"My husband and I are both federal employees. As time goes by, it becomes more and more frustrating, stressful, and scary. The uncertainty of not knowing when we might go back to work again, the uncertainty of not knowing when we might see some income again ... we're both furloughed, however, [my husband] is sort of 'on call' ... and I can be called in again if there is a personnel coverage problem on my team that they don't have enough excepted employees to fill.
"We still have to pay for childcare. Our kids are still going to daycare in order to try to maintain some semblance of normalcy for them. I think our 5-year-old understands that something different is going on, though she doesn't really understand what it is. The biggest source of stress for our family is definitely the financial strain. We're not getting paid, but we still have mortgage, utilities, daycare bills, car loans, student loans, credit card bills, etc. that still have to [be paid] on time. We used to have a solid cushion in savings to fall back on, but we bought a new house a couple years [ago] that used up a large amount of that cushion, and then we used up even more of it this past fall to finish our basement in our new house. So we really only have one to two months of savings cushion now. We are moving that money out of savings to make it available to pay our February bills. If we're still shut down once we get into March, we're going to have to take loans out of our retirement to pay our bills. The thing that makes me the most angry is hearing people say things like 'but you'll get paid eventually' or 'you know what you signed up for.' ... Or hearing the President say things like 'They'll adjust. They always do.' That's a slap in the face."
"Mary," mom of one in North Carolina
"We are in the Coast Guard and we are currently without pay. Since we live somewhere with no family, I stay home to make sure I can drop my child off and pick him up from school. That means we have no income coming in at all. We are fortunate enough where we have some savings to last a little bit and our family has offered to help. Our community has been amazing. They are getting donations, holding dinners, offering discounts [on] haircuts, vet care for pets, restaurants, oil changes.
"The longer this goes on the more of a toll this is going to take on not just us but everyone being affected. I’m used to taking my son out and doing fun things on the weekends and now simple things like going to the movies can be a burden. He’s at an age where he understands but yet still wants normalcy. I am trying very hard to give that to him."
Char, mom of two in Utah — National Weather Service
"I'm a federal government employee and have been for 11 years. I work rotating shift work, in a 24/7 operating office whose mission it is to save lives and property. We are the National Weather Service (NWS) under National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is in the same category as air traffic controllers when it comes to being 'essential,' ... and required to work without pay when/if the government shuts down.
"I have two young children and a husband who rely on my paycheck to provide for our daily ... needs. I [bring home] 90 percent of our income, so to go without pay is a huge setback. We are nearing a month that the government has been shutdown and it happened to shutdown right at Christmas, when many families had purchased Christmas gifts, vacations, etc.
"While savings is crucial to any person in society today... most families just don't have months of savings to fall back on. When you take into account mortgage payments, childcare, food, necessities and utilities, the bills add up. The stress alone from not knowing when we will be paid is enough to drive a person crazy. As an 'essential' employee I am guaranteed to be paid at some time, but that doesn't help right now. I am our major provider. We have already contacted many financial institutions to ask/tell them that we will not be able to make a payment this month. Do you know how that feels as an adult who has worked hard my entire career to get to this point of 'I can't pay you this month because I'm still going to work but they aren't paying me'? I don't expect companies will be understanding for very long.
"The stress at home is definitely affecting everyone and that makes me even more sad. I just want the shutdown to end so I can get paid. I get the sense that folks higher up in politics don't have much of an idea on how this affects the common people of America. A 'partial government shutdown' isn't just politicians in D.C. that are griping about which bill to pass or what to fund for what project. They are literally withholding payment to working citizens while they argue and perhaps don't even meet and go into work to discuss matters."
One of the hardest parts of all of this is the shutdown isn't affecting everyone so for lots of America it's just business as usual.
"[The department where I work is using reserve funds] to remain open and keep paying staff, but it is running out quickly, then we’ll probably be working without getting paid. But our security guards ... are working without getting paid and I feel really awful. ... We’ve had three people leave since the shutdown began; it's very tense. Government used to be such a secure, stable job. We don’t want to be used as political pawns. ...
"We’ve never had this bleak feeling. ... But it feels like Trump doesn’t really care about federal employees because they majority vote Democrat, so why would he care about people who didn’t vote for him? But he is everybody’s president, not just the people who voted for him."
"I think it's safe to say the last few weeks have been some of the most stressful of our lives. The hardest part is that we have no idea how long this might go on. It's hard to financially plan for no money coming in for the foreseeable future. Everyone keeps saying 'this can't go on for much longer!' but we have to plan like it will. It's not feasible for families to go without paychecks for months at a time.
"My husband is active duty Coast Guard so he is working without pay. He isn't furloughed so he doesn't qualify for unemployment, and service members can't just go out and get part time jobs — it actually requires endorsement from their command so we don't have a lot of options. I work part time so we're OK for now, but not forever. Right now we are buying food, medication and paying our bills and that is it — no extras. I am literally thinking about every dollar that I'm spending. I just started putting things on credit cards just to keep cash on hand because once it's gone, it's gone.
"One of the hardest parts of all of this is the shutdown isn't affecting everyone so for lots of America it's just business as usual. It feels like people are moving on and forgetting that we're all still here with no paychecks coming in. I keep hearing people say, 'you'll get paid eventually!' and it makes me want to scream because I can't tell the bank that we'll pay our mortgage 'eventually.' It feels like we're sinking and nobody is paying attention. It's terrifying. An entire branch of the military is serving this country and not getting paid and our government is letting it happen."
"I’m a single mother with a 9- and 6-year-old, and I'm a federal worker. I’ve not been furloughed; I’ve been deemed essential so I am at work, not getting paid and not eligible to file for unemployment because I’m 'working.' I’m lucky enough to be a member of Navy Federal Credit Union and I used their 0 percent 'loan' for my first missed paycheck, and I’m fortunate enough to have savings that will keep me afloat for the short term. Beyond that I’m really not sure what I’m going to do. All I can do is write my Congressmen and hope.
"As an 'essential' employee, and I imagine even furloughed employees feel the same, this is incredibly demoralizing. It’s like we are being told, your work is too important to stop but not important enough to pay you. I have sold a few things on Facebook, things I was going to get rid of anyway, and it’s allowed me to buy groceries and not dip into my account. I never thought that we would get to this point but here we are."