The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Single moms, small-business owners among those forced to crowdfund to pay bills during shutdown

A group of federal employees in Maryland say the partial government shutdown has left them scrambling for money, and they blame President Trump. (Video: Lee Powell/The Washington Post)

Two days after Christmas, Julie Burr, a single mom in Kansas City, Mo., created a GoFundMe campaign with this plea:

“Being a contracted government worker, I’m losing pay every day that this government shutdown continues. I’ve taken on extra shifts at my 2nd job but it isn’t going to pay rent and all my bills. Being a single mom, I’m in panic mode right now. If you’d like to help, any donations are appreciated.”

Burr has updated the page several times since then, thanking those who have donated (she has raised $9,000) and wishing each day will be the day the government reopens so she can “get back to work and life back to normal.” On Monday, she replied to some who asked on her page why the children’s father couldn’t help.

“Well he would if he were here,” she wrote. “But in June 2018 he passed away of a sudden heart attack one week prior to his 52nd birthday.”

Search “government shutdown” on GoFundMe and you’ll find dozens and dozens of campaigns for federal workers and contractors who are seeking help from strangers to pay their bills while agencies remain shuttered for the 18th day with no end in sight.

President Trump is slated to give a prime-time address to the nation Tuesday to explain why a U.S.-Mexico border wall is needed and worth holding the government hostage over.

If the government remains closed Friday, the day federal workers normally are paid, it will be the longest government shutdown in U.S. history and leave hundreds of thousands of Americans without pay. In the past, federal workers eventually have received back pay. But government contractors such as Burr have no guarantee of receiving lost wages.

There’s also a tremendous ripple effect of the shutdown on people who depend on government services for their livelihoods. In one fundraising campaign, for Anna Dravland, 34, of Marquette, Mich., friends write that she recently had a stroke and is waiting to get on disability. The already long process is stalled now because of the government shutdown, they write.

“She has completely run out of funds for housing and utilities and is in dire need of funds as she is in danger of losing her home and getting her utilities shut off while she waits for her disability claim to be processed,” the campaign page reads. “Anna is still in recovery and the financial stress is causing her physical complications.”

Katherine Ogilvie of Mariposa, Calif., created a GoFundMe page to help keep her small family business running during the shutdown. Her company creates craft kits that are sold mostly at stores at national parks, she writes.

“I have orders I cannot ship due to the closure and I am waiting on $2282 in unpaid, past due federal agency invoices. I am facing $6000 in lost sales if government doesn’t open by the end of January,” she wrote in her funding appeal.

The stories go on and on. There’s Tyler Fralia of Ogden, Utah, a federal employee who used his savings to replace bald tires on his car and is seeking money to buy diapers and food for his 5-month-old baby while his wife is on unpaid maternity leave. There’s the 14- and 12-year-old sons who created a fundraising page for their mom, who they say is stressed about paying for: “Prescription Meds, I know she has not picked up. Gas, to pick us up for school. Rent, her bills. We need lunch money and groceries for our home. My little brother drinks 2 gallons a week, cause hes a growing boy and he loves cereal.”

“My mom has given her life to the country and has worked for the government for the last 10 years,” they write. “I feel so sad for her.”