Uncle Sam has been tagged by a kid named Government Polarization in a game of freeze tag that affects every American. As Washington D.C stands still, the rest of the nation is teeming with uncertainty.
About 800,000 federal workers are not being paid; 500,000 of them are being forced to work regardless. Dozens of agencies have been closed and more are to follow suit.
So what does this mean for Coppell?
Coppell Independent School District (CISD) programs are hardly being affected by the government shutdown due to the nature of its programs’ funding. Many worry that students depending on the district for reliable meals could be greatly impacted due to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) running out of federal funds in under two months. However, this is not the case.
“[The government] has enough money to pay us until April,” CISD Director of Child Nutrition Jean Mosley said. “However, the Coppell Child Nutrition program has money in the fund balance to cover us past that. The shutdown really isn’t going to have an impact on us.”
Mosley further explained that most CISD programs have ample savings, so “all of Coppell ISD is good to go.”
Though school district activities are not being ceased, the effects of the shutdown have been seen in the enrollment of district programs.
“The only way the shutdown is affecting [the Child Nutrition program] right now is that we’ve had a couple of calls by people who aren’t receiving any income so they are now applying for the Free and Reduced lunch program,” Mosley said.
Where Coppell has the luxury of being able to operate in the midst of the shutdown, other districts are in a panic; simply because one may not see an issue in one’s personal life, is not to say there is not an issue at all.
Government workers from around the country are clinging to any news regarding a reopening. A handful of Coppell citizens are in that group of people desperately waiting for Congress to reboot the nation.
“We make good salaries, but there are people who work for the government who don’t make a ton of money per year so they are definitely not prepared for these shutdowns,” said Coppell citizen Jeanie Olivas, a mother of three and federal employee. “We do have savings so we are a little better off, but even using savings, people are having to cut into their retirement. It’s not something we budget for, even though I guess we should. In a nice world, we would all have six months of savings. But that’s hard in the real world.”
Both Olivas and her husband work for the federal government. Olivas works in the Food and Drug Administration. Her job has been deemed nonessential for the protection of public health, and workers in this category have been furloughed. Her husband works for the office of Small Business Administration Disaster Relief; his part of the agency is still working and receiving a normal paycheck.
Olivas said her family is lucky to have at least one regular source of income at the moment, but not all families are as lucky. Government shutdowns can prove to be a real financial strain for families across the nation.
It is needless to say that the shutdown has been a cause of worry for families such as this one.
Workers across all agencies are facing or will be facing the same issues, including the nation’s coast guard who will cease to be paid starting in mid-January.
“Everybody gets the talk about always having an emergency fund for at least 90 days, but I can imagine the average age of those enrolled in the military is around the 20s,” Army veteran and Coppell resident John Patrick said. “I would suspect most of them don’t have money saved up, because a lot of them will spend the remainder of their paychecks on adult beverages and cigarettes. I can imagine the single guy is getting by, but if you have a family, the government shutdown is probably hurting you pretty bad.”
President Donald Trump, Vice President Michael Pence, Congress, the Supreme Court and the Cabinet are all still being paid.
“[Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw] is not going to take his pay while this is going on, he is leading by example,” Patrick said. “He’s saying, ‘look we shouldn’t be being paid, we’re supposed to be doing a job here’. Hopefully we’ll start seeing more grown-up likes him start to pop up.”
Besides simply financial concerns, government workers have expressed that those who have shut the government down seem to be out of tune with the average American.
Olivas thinks this shutdown is pointless to begin with.
“I don’t see the wall fixing illegal immigration, so I don’t know why we’re keeping the government shut just because of this wall. To me, what’s going on between Trump and his opposers is more of a power struggle,” Olivas said. “I’m not happy with people of either side because they’re playing with people’s lives. [The President and Congress] need to get out of their castles on a hill, get into the real world and see what their games are causing.”
While families across the nation are fearing what is to come, Patrick is confident hard working Americans can help the country through these struggles.
“If the food banks and other stuff shut down, you’ll probably see plenty of volunteer agencies step in for the government. I know many charity organizations are on high alert in case federal funding goes out, but I think people will step in,” Patrick said. “If people can raise $20 million for the wall, you can probably get $50 million off of Go Fund Me to help the hungry.”
This story was originally published on Coppell Student Media on January 23, 2019.