Longest-ever government shutdown affects local citizens


Submitted Photo. Used with permission.

The Mather family, shown above, is one of many affected by the government shutdown.

By Alexa Davis, Freedom Area Middle School

On Friday, Jan. 25, President Donald Trump signed a bill to reopen the government for three weeks after a 35-day shutdown. A partial government shutdown started in the United States on Dec. 21, 2018. A partial shutdown is the result when Congress fails to pass a budget for the country. When a shutdown occurs, many federal employees are not able to be paid.  Some of the employees, who are considered essential to the country, continue to have to work, but without pay.

The 35-day shutdown first started when President Donald Trump made a request to Congress for approximately 5.7 billion dollars for his wall, extending all the way across the U.S./Mexico border. Since Congress could not generate these funds for the wall, and the parties could not agree on a budget, the government had to go on a partial shutdown.  Numerous members of the Democratic party did not agree with the idea completely, and neither did the Congress, who will eventually have to spend 5.7 billion dollars out of their budget for the wall. President Trump is very adamant with this request, and is not letting the other parties sway his opinion about building a wall.

As you may already know, a lot of people in the community and around the country work for the government, but how do they get paid when the government’s not working? The answer is… they don’t. Ms. Emily Mather, principal of Freedom Elementary School, has firsthand experience because her husband works for the government. He is an air traffic controller, working for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). He is an essential employee, so even when the government shuts down, he has to go to work. There are many dangers in working this job right now, because of a lack of other employees that help fill the extra shifts.

“The schedules that air traffic controllers have is called a rattler system. What that means is they will work one day where they have more of a normal 7-3 shift. The very next day, they’ll work a 3-11 shift, then the next day they’ll work overnight. But what’s happening right now is there’s so many less employees because anyone who’s going through training right now, is not permitted to work. So they’re [the FAA] almost short on employees, and he’s having to go in for extra shifts,” explains Mather.

This can be incredibly dangerous, since the workers have to take so many long shifts without the proper rest. Air traffic controllers are the people who monitor where planes fly and make sure no planes crash into each other.

“He’s good at what he does, and there is a zero percent room for error,” Mather states.

This job can be very tough during shutdowns, consider working over 8 hours a day and having no room for mistakes whatsoever, with thousands of lives dependant on you.  Mather says she and her family are very fortunate to have another source of income, but some families are not so lucky. Numerous restaurants and stores are reaching out to those in need in the course of the shutdown.  They are offering everyday essentials to those employees who are quickly running out of savings. When asked what her husband’s motivation is to keep working through this trying time, Mather said, “Just taking pride in your work, and showing our kids to take pride in their work, and to follow the rules.”

This story was originally published on Bulldog Barker on February 7, 2019.