How is the government shutdown affecting Americans? Yahoo asked those impacted to share their stories. Here’s one.
COMMENTARY | Based on my job title and description, I’m considered an “essential government worker.” What does that mean? My job relates to the safety and security of the people of the United States of America, and I’m proud to serve. But what does it all really mean?
It means I won’t be furloughed. However, I will work for free, and if I don’t work, I’ll be furloughed. They figure if I call out sick, I’m not that essential and will be placed on the furlough list. I will cancel my upcoming appointment for removal of a potential breast tumor, because I would have been on sick leave for a day as a result. My pre-approved leave has been cancelled, which means that I won’t have that extra day next to my weekend to drive the 3 hours from Spokane, Wash., to my parents’ home in their small town, to take my 87-year-old mother to her cancer doctor’s appointment 75 miles from her home.
Working for nothing, can I afford to pay one of her neighbors to take her to that appointment? No. Working for free, will I be able to maintain the mortgage on my austere 600 sq. ft. home? No. Will I be able to pay my utilities? No. Will I qualify for food stamps? No. Unemployment? No. I’m working, of course.
I make just enough each month to cover my basic expenses with enough wiggle room to travel to my parents’ place about every 6 weeks, keeping my bills paid and food on the table. I don’t complain, I manage my money and feel quite comfortable even though it’s payday to payday. Savings? That was spent on moving here, to be physically closer to my aging parents, and it hasn’t been replenished. So… While I will continue working, to support the efforts of protecting my country, I wonder…
What happens when I tell my lenders that I can’t pay them because I’m working for free? I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to postpone my payments, for a substantial fee. They’ll end up making money. At least for a month… But what about next month? After they’ve tacked on their late fees and attached their interest to their current interest-free contracts, maybe if I can get paid next month, it’ll take another 12 to come back even. In the meantime, making larger payments, who will not get paid?
More importantly, can I go without food for a month or more? I garden, and can or freeze the produce… I shop sales and freeze for future meals. Do I have a month’s worth of food stocked? I could eat canned green beans for breakfast, beets for lunch and homemade bread for supper, enjoying about 4 oz of meat maybe 3 times a week, for about 2 months. At least I don’t have to worry about GMOs or e-coli, because I won’t be able to buy anything from the stores.
How long will city water float my account? Maybe I’ll be going to work without the ability to shower, and will have to take spit baths in the public restrooms. Not sure how I’ll launder my uniforms… How long will the utility company float my natural gas heating bill? Good thing I’ve got blankets. Will the power company float my electricity bill, so my fridge, freezer and stove will work? I sure hope so… It’d be a shame to waste the goods in cold storage, and it’s hard to bake bread on a gas furnace. Not to mention, one shouldn’t eat home canned foods without boiling them first. Will I be able to scrape up enough for my prescription medication? It’s certain that if I can’t pay my health insurance out-of-pocket, it will be cancelled because my agency won’t pay its share of the premiums during my no-pay status. Then what happens when I finally get paid again? How will I possibly catch up?
Thank you, Republican Congressmen, for ensuring that your government-worker peers are well cared for and compensated for their service. We continue to serve… Will we be able to say the same for you? Somebody’s making money, somebody’s getting paid, somebody’s reaping benefits from this shutdown… Everybody but us, kind Sirs and Madames. Please consider taking care of the people who are serving to protect you and your family, at this time without pay.