The accounts have come in by the thousands from all over the country, collected on Twitter under the hashtag #ShutdownStories. There's the single mother struggling to make ends meet who has taken up a second job at Denny's to pay for gas to get to her federal government job, where she continues to work without pay. There's the furloughed contractor whose spouse has cancer and fears she won't get back pay.
And here in Mountain View, nearly 1,200 federal employees at NASA Ames Research Center are without work and pay while the longest federal government shutdown in United States history drags on without a clear end in sight.
The partial government shutdown began on Dec. 21 due to a political impasse over a spending bill to fund most government operations. President Donald Trump has so far refused to sign a spending bill because he insists that it include $5.7 billion for a wall on the Mexico border.
As a result, about 380,000 federal employees have been furloughed without pay and roughly 420,000 are working without pay, according to the Washington Post. The impacts of the shutdown have been significant and widespread, ranging from inconveniences -- closed national monuments and longer airport security checkpoint lines -- to alarming lapses in routine food inspections and serious concerns over whether low-income families will continue to receive food stamps.
Then there's the yet to be determined toll on the economy. The 2013 shutdown, which lasted 16 days, took $24 billion out of the U.S. economy, according to an estimate from Standard & Poor's. With the current shutdown set to surpass a month, Trump administration economists have doubled projections of how much economic growth is being lost each week the shutdown persists, the New York Times reported Tuesday.
While local residents and agencies have banded together to offer assistance to impacted workers and their families, the situation is only getting more dire as the shutdown continues. Earlier this month, the Ames Federal Employee Union went so far as to issue $100 union fee refunds to members, a payment that was procedural at the time and now represents a lifeline for people struggling to afford basic necessities. The chief steward of the union, NASA accountant Janette Rocha, told the Voice there are "workers who can't feed their kids, and it could be a month or two months before we get paid." Another NASA employee said he'll have to find a career outside the government if the shutdown lasts much longer. The impact on scientific research and the potential for a "brain drain" of highly skilled professionals to the public sector is unknown, but likely to be significant.
This impasse has upended lives and anguished federal employees and their families around the country, and the fallout from the shutdown is likely to continue long after it ends. Whatever your opinion is on our country's border security policies, we should all agree that civil servants should not be pawns in the president's ploy to fulfill a campaign promise.