How is the government shutdown affecting Americans? Yahoo asked those impacted to share their stories. Here’s one.
COMMENTARY | Our family’s suitcases remained in attic storage during the summer of 2013. The furlough reduced my husband’s salary by 20 percent for six weeks, eliminating any possibility of a family vacation. Instead, we made the most of our Maryland public library system, attending free ice-cream socials and borrowing books and movies to pass the time. Back-to-school shopping consisted of scanning the local thrift stores for items that were affordable yet fashionable by teenage standards. We made it through by squeezing the budget to the brink. Then, after only one full-sized, back-to-normal paycheck, the recent government shutdown has again placed us on the edge of financial disaster.
My husband teaches hands-on skills to U.S. Naval Academy engineering students so that they are prepared to service and repair ships at sea. The knowledge that he imparts is crucial, and cannot be taught from behind a podium in a classroom. Very few people have the expertise to teach these skills, yet these civilian employees are deemed “non-essential.” I wonder if lawmakers would prefer to sail with a crew which lacked the experience that they might have gained from “non-essential” employees.
My teaching position in a small parochial school provides the support of coworkers, but I earn less than half of a public school teacher. For years, the cost of living has dramatically increased, but our salaries have risen less than 5 percent. We have no savings. The credit card was maxed out for a tank of heating oil. Yesterday, I shopped for our daughter’s birthday at the dollar store. Bankruptcy is not out of the question.
Thursday morning, my husband will join others in line for unemployment benefits. We are praying for relief, but the constant pressure has put a great deal of strain on our personal relationships. I lost it with our eleven-year-old when she stained her jeans playing outside. Suddenly, the cost of running another load of laundry, a bottle of stain remover, a new pair of jeans, was all just too much. Our children don’t comprehend the weight of our daily decisions: groceries or car insurance? A tankful of gas or a dental check-up? But honestly, I don’t want them to fully understand this part of adult life yet. So we gather around our dinner table, thankful for cheap and nutritious pasta and hopeful that tomorrow the important people who make decisions will grasp the gravity of this situation.