The Washington Post

Government shutdown generates stories of misery around the country


As Congress and the White House try to find their way out of the bleak hole that is this partial government shutdown, the damage it has done is becoming increasingly clear. The pain grows each day workers remain idle and services remain closed.

Even with many federal employees being called back to work, albeit with Uncle Sam’s IOU in place of pay, the lapse in appropriations continues to raise havoc for many across the land. This was demonstrated by an online project by my Washington Post colleagues that let readers tell how the shutdown affects their lives. In just two days last week, Thursday and Friday, more than 2,300 replies were posted.

Joe Davidson writes the Federal Diary, a column about federal government and workplace issues that celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2012. Davidson previously was an assistant city editor at The Washington Post and a Washington and foreign correspondent with The Wall Street Journal, where he covered federal agencies and political campaigns. View Archive

They were classified in four areas: “It doesn’t affect me” (450), “It affects me a little” (380), “It affects me on a daily basis” (525) and “It threatens my livelihood” (962). Almost two-thirds said the shutdown affected them daily or threatened their livelihood.

A map of the replies illustrates that the shutdown’s distress reaches to every corner of the nation, though, unfortunately, the posted responses are identified only by state.

Here is a sampling of the misery:


How the shutdown affects departments

Ohio — A large percentage of the real estate sales in my area are USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] or VA [Department of Veterans Affairs]. As a realtor, the shutdown has almost shut down the market here!

Kentucky — I am a mortgage broker in Kentucky. I work straight commission. I had three USDA mortgage loans scheduled to close but now they can’t due to Government shutdown. I need this money to support my family, not to mention the ripple effect of real estate agents, buyers, sellers, title company, insurance.

California — My husband and I are both federal law enforcement officers currently working with no pay. We can’t survive if this shutdown goes any longer. We had enough to pay some bills this month but barely enough for food. If it goes any longer, we will have to tap into our retirement to pay for necessities.

Virginia — I am a federal employee with a security clearance and a master’s degree. I’ve been furloughed since Oct 2. I am supporting a family of five on one salary. I filed for unemployment yesterday.

Alaska — Sixty percent of Alaska is owned and managed by the federal government, and the shutdown has affected not only government employees but those who depend on government services, many of whom live in remote areas and are dependent upon those services.

Louisiana — As an employee of a small business who is a federal government contractor, this shutdown [affects] my very livelihood. While “civil servant” federal employees will get back pay, I will not. I am essentially donating my life’s savings for Congress to play politics.

Arizona — Federal Employee family of five in a single income family. Second time in six months that I am furloughed. This is day 22 of the government shutdown for me, 11 due to sequester plus 11+ due to shutdown. Considering leaving government work . . .

Oregon — I work for a community action agency providing services to those in poverty. We rely heavily on federal funding — closed off since the shutdown. We’re using savings to pay employees and provide services. If the shutdown isn’t over by the end of the month, me and 23 coworkers will be laid off.

Maryland — Being a furloughed single mom who lives paycheck to paycheck is a struggle. I’ve gone thru what little I had in savings to be sure current utility bills and insurance got paid. Not sure how I’m going to pay rent if this doesn’t end soon. It’s very stressing.

Idaho — I am a furloughed forester. We also had to shut down several loggers which are now without work. The millowners are hurting too. No firewood permits for the public. This is when people cut wood for winter. This affects the basic daily survival of many families.

Washington state — The sequester and shutdown are killing my company. We are a high-tech company with products that can save US DoD [Department of Defense] millions of dollars. We had 55 employees before the sequester. We have 32 now. If sequester and shutdown continue much longer, we will be forced to shut down ourselves.

No effect

Even some who said the shutdown does not affect them personally are concerned about their neighbors. Others said the shutdown demonstrates government’s uselessness.

Virginia — I work for a private university in DC and it is being affected in various ways but my job is not in danger. My roommate works for the DoD and was furloughed for a week but went back after a week. The only difference to me is positive — the Metro is less crowded and I can find a seat now.

Louisiana — It has not affected me yet. But I work for a library system which depends on federal funding for some of the services we are able to provide. Any reduction in these services will have a negative impact on my hard-working, but poor people in this community.

Wisconsin — So far [it has not affected me] because I live in rural isolation. But for those not in the woods or wilderness, the impact can be harsh.

District — I was unemployed and on welfare for three years and finally became a fed. I am now furloughed. This has been mentally horrific. It reminds me of being unemployed. I still owe taxes from last year and am barely getting by. I just want to work.

Previous columns by Joe Davidson are available at

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