Jan. 11 was a hard day for hundreds of thousands of federal workers who expected to get their first paycheck of the year, when it never came.
On Dec. 22, President Trump partially shut down the US government after he and Congress could not make a deal on a spending bill regarding the proposed wall along the US Mexico border. While there have been government shutdowns in past administrations—21 in US history to be exact—the shutdown that ended on Jan. 25 was the longest shutdown in United States history. In the 35 days the government shut down, approximately 800,000 federal workers were not being paid, 420,000 of which were expected to work without pay and the remaining were furloughed.
For a little background, a government shutdown occurs when Congress and the president fail to sign 12 appropriations bills—the bills that determine spending for specific government agencies—in order for the government to provide funding for government operations. When government operations are not receiving funding, they cannot pay their employees or sometimes, even open their doors.
While institutions like the Postal Service were still open, many National Parks couldn’t open due to sanitation and safety issues. Organizations that do not rely on federal appropriations were still able to function and serve the American people.
Federal workers needed those paychecks. The paychecks that provided for their families, paid their rent and was the source of their livelihoods. All of the workers will be compensated for their work, however the rest of the world and its bills do not revolve around the status of the government. “Many workers were rationing their insulin, eating at homeless shelters, and even living in their cars because they couldn’t pay their mortgage. This is not okay. This is not how government should be ran,” Cori Johnson, co-president of Marian Student Union, said during the shutdown.
Congress was still paid as usual during the shutdown because Article I, Section 6 of the US Constitution allows the lawmakers to still get paid their salaries, despite the federal government being shut down due to their inability to reach an agreement. Many politicians however, refused any form of payment to stand in solidarity with those who didn’t receive paychecks. Don Bacon of Nebraska’s Second Congressional District was a part of this movement.
This is not a problem that only affects people far away. There was at least one Marian family that has contacted the business office because the parents have not been receiving paychecks. Marian was willing to work with any family that was affected in adjusting their tuition payment plan.
Many spoke out and helped out those federal workers who were not being paid. In various National Parks across the country, volunteers are helping clean and keep the parks in pristine conditions. Food banks visited airports while citizens donated to GoFundMe pages and cooked free meals for the families impacted, all in support of the federal workers we rely on.
On Jan. 25, President Trump signed a bill that reopened the government for a period of 21 days while negotiations continued about his proposed border wall. Normal government operations will continue until Feb. 15. If the Senate does not come to a conclusion as to what should be done about funding for border security, the government will be shut down once again.
All 800,000 federal workers whose paychecks were withheld will be reimbursed as quickly as possible from each of their prospective agencies. Museums and National Parks are now reopened and with tax day quickly approaching, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will return full force.
Liberty Vivertt, a statistician from the University of Washington, estimated that this government shutdown has cost the American public around $40 billion. If her estimate is correct, that means that the money lost due to this shutdown could have paid for the entire proposed border wall to be built and maintained for 40 years. In order to prevent empty pockets of federal workers and wasted money at the expense of the public, Republicans and Democrats must come to a compromise on border security spending—and fast.