Uncertainty: How the government shutdown has affected us all

Reported by Megan Stewart

When the U.S government partially shutdown on Dec. 21, no one knew for sure how long it would take President Trump and Congress to agree upon remaining budgets for the coming year.

But certainly no one would have predicted that it would last a record-breaking 35 days.  

“What started out as an inconvenience has turned into kind of a high stakes waiting game,” Junior Maddie Matthews said on Jan. 24, the day before the shutdown ended.

With each passing day, Americans grew more conscious of the government’s massive impact on basic societal functions. Albeit only a partial shutdown, with funding for five sections of the government secured out of 12 before the deadline, agencies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) still had to stop all “non-essential” operations. Despite the name, many of these duties are essential to the wellbeing of both federal workers and regular citizens.

For instance, the FDA was forced to delay important food inspections, and airlines, which are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), struggled to keep their flights timely and safe due to the lack of staff. Thousands of federal workers, some prohibited from working and others forced to work without pay, found themselves in increasingly deep financial trouble.

Matthews’ mother was one such government worker. A Communications Liaison and Public Relations Professional at the Department of Homeland Security, she was one of thousands forced to take a leave of absence without pay. As a single parent, Matthew’s mother’s only source of income is this job. In addition to her living expenses, she is trying to help her daughter foot the bill for college tuition.

To keep up with the payments, Matthews recently had to break into the savings bonds she’s had since childhood, as her mother had her own $1000 to cover, due on January 15. While the government was shutdown, she managed to get by, but mostly because, Matthews said, her mother is money savvy and always plans ahead.

“I know a lot of people aren’t as lucky,” said Matthews. Matthews herself works several jobs to pays for her own rent, which lightens the burden already for her mother.

Even now, after the government has reopened, the future for government employees and people dependent on government subsidies or programs remains uncertain. The bill President Trump signed only funds the government for three more weeks. If Congress and the executive branch are still unable to agree on budgets, particularly for border security, the shutdown will continue.

When asked what her mother would do if that happened, Matthews admitted she didn’t know.

“I used to ask her questions before when I’d hear things happening on the news and say, ‘Explain this,’ or ‘What’s your opinion on what’s happening on this?’ and she’d always have an answer and sort of have that underlying faith in the system because it’s the one she fought for and worked for for so long,” Matthews said.

“But now whenever I ask her, ‘Hey, how’s it’s going? What do you think is going to happen?’, and she says, ‘I don’t know. I have no idea.’”

Jessica DaughertyComment