The partial government shutdown, which entered its 20th day on Thursday, has forced some federal workers and their families to consider creative ― and sometimes tragic ― ways to make ends meet.
At least 800,000 federal employees have been furloughed or, if deemed essential, ordered to work without pay. CNN’s “New Day” invited two of those government employees on the show Thursday to discuss the shutdown’s impact on their lives.
Lisa Honan, a program assistant for the Environmental Protection Agency, said both she and her husband have been furloughed, leaving them financially strapped caring for their two young children and paying for a brand-new house.
“We were fortunate enough to have a little bit in savings, but once we bought the house, we pretty much drained that,” Honan told CNN. “We’re going to cut back as much as we can with food, with gas. ... I just want this to end. I want the government to reopen.”
“It probably will come down to ... where you could drive for a ride-sharing service,” Honan said later. “I just hope that it doesn’t drag on for much longer to where we will have to start selling our family’s heirlooms.”
Marc Munoz, a furloughed U.S. Forest Service fire captain, said his family has faced significant financial strain since the shutdown began on Dec. 22. He said he has been picking up odd jobs to provide for his seven daughters and wife, who is recovering from cancer.
“It brings a lot of stress,” Munoz said of the shutdown.
He continued: “A lot of the folks that look up to you in the community look at you like, ‘Wait, you’re a firefighter. You work for the federal government. You’re supposed to be in a secure job, a strong profession.’ And when they hear that you’re furloughed and you’re not working and you’re possibly asking for loans and extensions on your utilities ― it’s unacceptable.”
The shutdown stalemate focuses on President Donald Trump’s demand for more than $5 billion to build his long-promised U.S.-Mexico border wall. The president has said he would reject a spending bill to reopen the government that doesn’t provide for the wall, which he has promised Mexico would pay for. Democrats have refused his demand.
Though federal employees will likely receive retroactive pay, many families are struggling to pay rent and buy necessities in the meantime. What’s more, government contractors likely never will receive back pay.
The shutdown has also jeopardized food security and health care for American Indian tribes, which rely heavily on federal funding to operate under longstanding treaties with the U.S. government. Food assistance benefits for 38 million Americans could run out in March.
Both Munoz and Honan agreed the shutdown needs to end immediately for the sake of all Americans.
“I don’t know how long financially that our family will be able to hang in there,” Honan told CNN. “And it’s not just us ― many families outside of federal employees are affected by this as well. So just end this now ― the sooner the better.”