For Loyola student Seliah McCasland, the nearly month-long partial federal government shutdown means more than a failed agreement on the federal budget. Instead, it means a canceled backpacking trip, a Christmas Eve spent away from her father and lots of uncertainty. For other Loyolans, the shutdown has caused financial struggles and stress.
Out of the 15 federal departments, nine are currently being affected by the shutdown, leaving more than 800,000 employees without income and causing concern about their futures. Some workers are furloughed, meaning they aren’t allowed to come into work, while others are required to work without pay, according to the White House.
The Senate is scheduled to vote on a bill to reopen the government Thursday, according to remarks Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell made on the Senate floor.
McCasland’s father manages an out-of-state wildlife refuge, which is home to around a million birds throughout the year. Some of his day-to-day work includes “banding” ducks — attaching small locators to the birds — in order to track migration and ensure bird population stability.
When the shutdown began Dec. 22, McCasland’s father had planned to take a two-week break for the holidays. But he had to work almost every day he expected to be off in order to maintain the refuge in the absence of many workers, according to McCasland, a first-year studying environmental policy.
McCasland’s father wasn’t being paid for the work he was doing. On Christmas Eve, he made the hour-and-a-half trek to the refuge using his own money for gas, McCasland said.
“He’s going in [to work] for essentially no reason,” McCasland, 18, said. “He’s doing it on his own free will because he’s a good person. Trump gets to go vacation while my dad is supposed to be having vacation time, but he’s stuck at his office.”
McCasland and her family also had planned a trip backpacking along the West Coast, which they had to cancel when her father wasn’t able to take off work.
Another first-year, who asked to remain unnamed because of her mother’s career, has struggled to buy basic necessities in the absence of her mom’s paycheck.
The student said it’s an especially hard situation because multiple members of her family are affected by the shutdown — her mom is an FBI agent who investigates terrorists and has been required to work without pay, while her aunt, an analyst for the Drug Enforcement Administration, has been furloughed.
The unnamed student said it’s been difficult without her mother’s income because her parents are divorced and her mom is the main provider for the family. Due to the shutdown, she said her family wasn’t able to pay their bills after her mom didn’t receive the first paycheck of the year.
“It’s been really hard, especially for someone with a single parent,” the anonymous student said. “It’s just affected us really badly. We don’t know how we’re gonna [sic] get gas. We don’t know how we’re going to do anything.”
The unnamed student said she’s taken money out of her own savings accounts to help pay for the family’s expenses, while also borrowing money from extended family members. The anonymous student said her aunt has been picking up babysitting jobs trying to earn money while she’s not able to go into work. As the shutdown drags on, she said some of her mother’s coworkers are considering different careers.
Even without McCasland’s father’s paycheck, her family was able to remain financially stable due to her mother’s job and family savings.
McCasland said she was looking forward to going home during winter break after her first semester away at college. Because of the distance, she hadn’t spent time with her parents in months.
McCasland said she doesn’t think Trump realizes the effect the shutdown is having on families and said it’s especially difficult to see her father frustrated and unsure about the future. Although her father has been going into work, she said he’s unhappy because he won’t be able to implement anything new at the refuge until the government is reopened.
“It’s not just about the fact [my dad’s] not getting a paycheck,” McCasland said. “He’s really bored, he loves going to work and he does work that actually benefits people and benefits the planet, having that taken away from people is just kind of terrible.”
The disagreement on the budget arose because President Donald Trump has said he wants the budget to include $5.7 billion to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to curb immigration. Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, have vocalized their opposition to the funding, arguing a wall would be ineffective, expensive and a negative symbol.
The unnamed student said she doesn’t think it’s fair for federal employees to suffer while political parties debate an issue.
“It’s like we’re punishing the citizens of our own country for something that not everyone has agreed on,” the student said. “It sucks because these are the people who are preventing crime, the people mediating things, the people making sure parks are clean and making sure you can get through the airport.”
Trump tweeted Jan. 20 thanking federal employees for working without pay and emphasized the importance of border security.
To all of the great people who are working so hard for your Country and not getting paid I say, THANK YOU – YOU ARE GREAT PATRIOTS! We must now work together, after decades of abuse, to finally fix the Humanitarian, Criminal & Drug Crisis at our Border. WE WILL WIN BIG!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 21, 2019
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi responded to a different tweet from Trump Jan. 20 in which he called her a “Radical Democrat” and said she was “behaving irrationally.” She tweeted they should reopen the government to help federal workers before they discuss the border.
.@realDonaldTrump, 800,000 Americans are going without pay. Re-open the government, let workers get their paychecks and then we can discuss how we can come together to protect the border. #EndTheShutdown https://t.co/8RKUTnhgBd— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) January 20, 2019
Loyola is offering individual help to students affected by the government shutdown, according to a statement from Dean of Students Will Rodriguez sent to The Phoenix through university marketing and communications. Affected students can submit a Coordinated Assistance and Resource Education form, which is designed to identify specific ways to help, which could involve increased financial aid. Students can also contact the Dean of Students for more information.
It’s unclear how many Loyola students or their families have been affected — financially or otherwise — by the shutdown.
Trump signed a bill Jan. 16 ensuring all federal employees will receive the amount of income they would’ve earned during the shutdown, according to Congress. Previously, furloughed workers weren’t guaranteed pay for the time they weren’t allowed to work.
Because of the bill, both students’ parents will be reimbursed for the time they’ve worked. However, the unnamed student said it’ll be difficult until then.
“We’re just waiting it out, hoping it ends soon,” she said.