Shut down, fed up
The partial government shutdown is now the longest in American history, and hundreds of thousands of people are feeling the strain. These are their stories.
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‘I blame every single elected official’
Ashley Totten is married to a petty officer in the Coast Guard. They live with their two children near Houston, including an infant son who was born with a heart defect. Her husband is one of 42,000 active-duty Coast Guardsmen who aren’t being paid during the shutdown.
‘If we don’t work, we don’t get paid’
Pablo Lazaro is a cook at the National Museum of the American Indian. As a contract worker, he is not entitled to back pay when the shutdown ends. He already works a second job at Reagan National Airport to make ends meet.
‘It’s really terrifying’
Nicole Bryner works at the Smithsonian and her daughter goes to school in a federal building. The shutdown means the school is closed and Nicole isn’t getting a paycheck, but the school bills are still coming.
‘Why am I nonessential?’
Amy McCarthy is a consumer safety officer at the Food and Drug Administration in northern Ohio. Out of work and behind on her bills, she says she may have to leave government service after 12 years if the shutdown goes on much longer.
‘This thing is a national disaster’
John Boyd is a fourth-generation farmer in southern Virginia. He was already struggling to sell his soybeans because of the international trade war; now, the shutdown means he can’t collect his bailout checks from the government.
‘It will affect my ability to get care’
Violet Kuchar is a financial management officer with the Peace Corps. A Stage 4 cancer patient, the shutdown is forcing her to wrestle with complex insurance issues and delay the search for new treatments.
‘It’s causing a lot of agitation’
Richard Heldreth is the local union president at the Hazelton Federal Correctional Complex in West Virginia. He says unpaid prison workers are demoralized, and the number of assaults on correctional officers has increased since the shutdown.
‘All of us deserve a little bit more respect’
Tony Mazzoccoli is the director of strategic planning at the State Department. He describes the pressure the shutdown is putting on his colleagues and the message it sends to civil servants throughout the government.