For 20 days, thousands of federal workers have been furloughed from their jobs — told they weren’t allowed to come to work, or get paid, until the gridlock over $5 billion in funding for President Trump’s proposed border wall comes to an end.
They are anxious, bored and without pay, spending their free days hiking with friends, trying new hobbies or using housework and pets to distract from mounting fear and frustration over the government shutdown that appears to have no end in sight.
The Washington Post asked workers to share with us what being furloughed looked like, through words and photos. Their responses were lightly edited for clarity.
Contracting officer for the FAA | Falls Church, Va.
“Was trying to bake a cake from scratch for the first time. It went poorly, but I did kill a few hours. Apparently, I’m not going to be able to make up the lost income by becoming a baker. This is not a surprise.”
Research fellow at the Food and Drug Administration | Washington, D.C.
“My friends and I hiked for 26 miles at Green Ridge State Forest in Maryland. We spent the night sleeping under a rock literally (and figuratively, when your employment status depends on the news). Thankful for nature and park rangers who have been dedicatedly looking after our national and state parks!”
Program analyst | Columbia, Md.
“Moved into my new apartment in December. I can only buy food, no furniture, to protect against being evicted.”
Married to a Federal Aviation Administration mathematician | Springfield, Va.
“While we try to look at this furlough as an extension of the holiday break, we are no fools. This is bad — worse than previous furloughs. We also appreciate that others are in more dire circumstances. We take our dogs on long walks to stave off the impending concern about next month’s mortgage and other essential payments. We consider bitter options, like taking money from retirement accounts. It’s so hard to save these days.”
“We should not complain. We should be grateful. But what if my cancer returns from which I successfully recovered and we have no health-care insurance anymore? What if anything unexpected occurs in tandem with this situation? What if I experience another outburst like several nights ago, at this ludicrous and unnecessary situation? It’s made common folk pawns. I am enraged.”
National Park Service research ecologist | Colorado
“Making the best of this ridiculous idiocracy by doing lots of projects around the house. We’re saving money as best we can, but we have a brand new baby that we can’t skimp on, of course.”
Forest silviculturist | Ketchikan, Alaska
“I’ve spent my days hiking the local trails with my dog, Bodie Blue the red heeler. The days are short and it has been snowy, so the trails have been empty and peaceful.”
Treasury employee | Washington, D.C.
“Fritz (my dachshund) gets to go out a lot, and I spend all day with him!”
Owner, pet-sitting business | Reston, Va.
“We walk dogs during the day while their owners are at work. Many of our clients are government employees and contractors, and when they don't work, we don't work. They get back pay, we won't. Shutdown hurts small businesses like ours.”
Administrative support staff at FAA Boeing Aviation Safety Oversight Office | Mountlake Terrace, Wash.
Julie Ann St. George
“I am frustrated at the gridlock, with Trump using federal government employees and contractors as tools. … I am staying true to my moral compass and beliefs, staying positive this will end soon with no wall. Security is important, as are the people who protect it and are working for free these days. I am appreciating what I enjoy in the Pacific Northwest and sharing through my photography the beauty of my home state.”
Julie Ann St. George
Internal Revenue Service employee | Chicago
“I re-created the #saltbae meme with puzzles. Because every day I’m puzzlin’ during shutdown.”
Are you a federal worker who has been furloughed? The Washington Post wants to know how you’ve been spending your days.