Federal employee describes government shutdown hardships


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Hundreds rally at the White House for an end to the government shutdown on January 19, 2019.

By Zoe Alvarez , Vidal M. Trevino School of Communications and Fine Arts

The name have been changed to protect this federal employee’s identity

Robert Matthews is one of the 800,000 employees who had been affected by the government shutdown. He had little concern when he first heard of the shutdown as he has been through several.

“I really did not give much thought to it considering I have experienced government shutdowns in the past,” he said.

In those first moments of the government shutdown, Matthews said he felt let down by the president and the politicians in Washington D.C. for not being able to settle their disputes.

“(I am) disappointed and discontent with the President and Congress and their inability to resolve their differences,” said Matthews in a written interview.

His daily life has not been deeply affected by this shutdown; this a result of his economic lifestyle.

“I’ve always been frugal with my money,” he said.

Regardless of the government shutdown, Matthews still continues to work. He described the atmosphere at work as full of concern and anxiousness. A small number of workers have stayed home since the first day of the shutdown he said. The majority of his coworkers still go to work. They all feel anxious about the length of the shutdown and when it will end.

“Everyone is really concerned about the shutdown and the potential of it going long-term,” he said.

Matthews has dealt with the situation just fine. His spouse has a steady job and still brings paychecks home.

“I am fortunate my spouse works and our household still has a steady source of income,” he said.

Because of the situation, he still has to pull money from different places to make financial ends meet.

“However, we are having to tap into our savings to meet all of our financial responsibilities,” he said.

However we are having to tap into our savings to meet all of our financial responsibilities”

— Robert Matthews

This government shutdown has not mentally or physically affected Matthews. Emotionally, he feels annoyance and bitterness towards the officials in Washington D.C.

“Emotionally, I have expressed a lot of frustration and resentment towards our President and Congress,” he said.

Many of his coworkers are doing what they can to get through this shutdown he said.

“Most are dealing with the whole situation as well as they can considering they still have a job to do,” he said.

This shutdown has also left his coworkers’ hands tied financially. The majority of them struggle to provide basic necessities for their households such as food, bills, and more. They began to reach out with community centers, food banks, state and local agencies and more. Some became part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for food stamps.

“Many have started making contact with State and local agencies, financial institutions, and non-profit organizations seeking assistance,” he said.

Many have started making contact with State and local agencies, financial institutions, and non-profit organizations seeking assistance.”

— Robert Matthews

Matthews has helped federal employees who are not receiving pay by making possible financial aid available. He did this by reaching out to local financial establishments and speaking to them about financial aid to federal employees. This includes credit line accounts, low-interest rate loans, and other means.

“Early on during the shutdown, I met with local financial institutions to discuss possible financial assistance programs and/or offers available to federal employees,” he said.

At work, he advised his staff to introduce employees to all programs and aids available. This way employees would not be alone during this shutdown and can find financial help.

“I also directed my staff to meet with employees and ensure they are aware of all the resources and employee assistance programs available to them and their families,” he said.

Matthews has not been helped directly but as a federal employee help has been offered during the government shutdown.

“However, local financial institutions, non-profit organizations, restaurants, businesses have offered to assist those affected by the shutdown with low-interest loans, special dining offers, discount prices, and financial assistance,” he said.

The workplace is filled with upset workers. This shutdown has brought disappointment towards leaders in Washington D.C. Every day is a struggle to keep federal employees coming to their jobs because they are working for free. No income and demanding jobs are not the way many federal employees want to go about their day.

“As each day passes, it’s getting difficult for coworkers to stay motivated and show up to work when they know they are not getting paid,” he said.

As each day passes, it’s getting difficult for coworkers to stay motivated and show up to work when they know they are not getting paid.”

— Robert Matthews

The stress of their jobs differs from every worker he said. From risking lives as border patrol agents to office employees working long hours, to federal employees in high positions, it can be seen as unnecessary stress.

“The mental, physical, emotional impact varies from employee to employee,” he said.

The stress continues to build up as payment deadlines come closer and closer every day, especially when there is no source of income. Matthews sees this among his fellow federal employees.

“Generally everyone is stressed as bills will begin to mount up, if not already and providing basic household necessities is getting harder as days pass,” he said.

Robert finds that government shutdowns being the result of disputes in government funding for certain programs and projects are too frequent every fiscal year. These shutdowns have simply become playing cards in politician’s government games.

“The inability of Congress to find common ground and resolve their differences as it relates to immigration reform and border security not only impacts government employees but it also affects the entire United States,” he said.

The end of the government shut down is not known to Matthews but he carries the hope that it will end sooner than later.

Matthews finds that media coverage on this shutdown helps more than hurts. It brings attention to the ongoing problem in Washington D.C. and all over the nation.

“I think the constant news coverage helps bring light to the ripple effect the government shutdown has not only on those directly affected but to the entire American population,” he said.

This story was originally published on The Magnet Tribune on January 28, 2019.