Since October 1st, my conversations with voters at the door has dramatically shifted, as people here feel the real impact of the government shutdown. Our district has a large number of government workers, and they along with businesses, employees and the public are all feeling the reverberations of the GOP shutdown of our federal government.
A Bethesda woman I met while knocking on her door told me that although she doesn’t know when her next paycheck will come, she is still expected to work unpaid in the interim, often 60 to 70 hours per week. Another woman told me that after saving for several years, she just recently closed on a new home leaving her with almost nothing in the bank. As a result, she is not only worried about a new mortgage, but is concerned about how she is going to make ends meet as her savings is completely exhausted. A third person shared that when he tried to get approval to work a part time job in order to help take care of his family, he was instructed that the ethics department had to approve any non-government employment, but they were furloughed earlier that morning making it illegal for him to earn any income that would help support his family.
Because of our proximity to Washington, DC and the amount of federal workers who live here, the impact this is having on people in our community is too high; virtually every block I talk to someone who was out of work or is without pay because of the shutdown. Unfortunately, the shutdown goes beyond that.Federal Head Start programs that help bridge the education gap for impoverished children are beginning to lapse across the country because of this shutdown. In the first week alone, six states had their Head Start programs completely close. If the federal government doesn’t reopen by November 1, then 86,000 kids in 41 states will be left in the cold without these programs. Currently Medicaid and Medicare checks are still going out, but people with disability applications will have to wait for processing. Families who lost their loved ones in Iraq or Afghanistan went until Thursday without any payments, and the VA has told veterans that if the shutdown lasts another few weeks veterans will stop getting their pensions.
In the 15 days since the government shut down, families here have been hurting and their pain will only get worse the longer the shutdown continues. For young workers living paycheck to paycheck, to middle aged folks who are struggling to with the high cost of living while not having any income, to seniors who don’t know what will happen to them if this goes on – it’s time for Congress to go back to work.