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Shutdown Stories: How The Government's Fight Affects Americans

The families across the country who are struggling to make ends meet have nothing to do with President Donald Trump's proposed border wall.

There’s still no end in sight for the partial government shutdown as Washington continues to be gridlocked over President Donald Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion to fund a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

But more than four weeks into the longest shutdown in history, the consequences reach much further than government leaders might have expected. People are missing paychecks. Food is not being inspected. Housing assistance is on the line. These families across the country who are very much struggling to make ends meet, it turns out, have absolutely nothing to do with the border wall.

Lawmakers recently approved a proposal that promises to pay back federal workers affected by the shutdown. But that depends on the shutdown ending, and the reality is that not everyone affected by this is a federal worker.

The ripple effect has begun, and everyday Americans, such as those in the stories recounted here, are paying for it. 

Valencia White

Valencia White is a Section 8 voucher recipient in Little Rock, Arkansas, which helps her stay in affordable housing. She has two young children and has a degenerative disc disease that prevents her from being able to work.

“I’ve got to pay rent, and I have to find ways to pay for food,” White said, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “My children are the ones that’s going to suffer the most.”

All contracts for Section 8 vouchers will expire at the end of February if the shutdown continues. The vouchers are under the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which is already dealing with 1,150 expired contracts in its project-based rental assistance program, prompting a rash of eviction notices. About 3.4 million people use Section 8 housing assistance. 

Cynthia Wilson

Cynthia Wilson owns the Parsnipity Cafe in Wichita, Kansas. The cafe serves mostly federal workers in her building, but now the workers are furloughed because of the shutdown.

Wilson told HuffPost she’s lost about a third of her customers, deeply affecting her ability to pay the cafe’s lease and her employees. She said she sympathizes with the furloughed federal workers but stressed that they at least are going to receive back pay when the shutdown ends.

“We don’t get our money back,” she said. 

Sherry Kinard

Sherry Kinard is a scientist at the Environmental Protection Agency and is based in Denver. She has two children, both with developmental disabilities.

Kinard told MSNBC that with the ongoing shutdown, she doesn’t know how she’s going to pay for therapies and medication for her children. She and her husband recently married, and they spent a lot of money on the wedding. Now he’s looking outside the state for a job that could better support the family. 

Wedding Ring Woman

Angela Huffman works at Buster’s Pawn Shop in Huntsville, Alabama. Huffman said she’s seen more people visiting her store to make ends meet during the shutdown, but one visitor particularly struck her: a woman who came to pawn her wedding ring for extra cash.

The woman, whom MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle did not name, is apparently a furloughed worker and struggling to pay bills. Huffman said the woman’s family eventually bought the ring back for her, highlighting the lengths some people are willing to go to survive the shutdown. 

Janusz Leja

Janusz Leja manages the Kava Cafe inside the Metcalfe Federal Building in Chicago. Leja is blind and works through an Illinois Department of Human Services employment program for the blind.

With the shutdown lasting nearly four weeks, Leja’s cafe has been closed, leaving him jobless. He still comes in every other day to toss out expiring food and check equipment.

“I had a little [money] saved for this month, but next month I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Leja told the Chicago Sun-Times while sitting in his empty cafe. 

John Boyd Jr.

John Boyd Jr. is a farmer in Virginia. He told the BBC he was supposed to receive a $15,000 subsidy for wheat seed that he never got from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

With no USDA to regulate farming, Boyd can’t plant his crops.

“I don’t need a wall. I want money to plant crops,” he said. 

Anpetu Luta Hoksila

Anpetu Luta Hoksila is an indigenous psychologist working at an Indian Health Service medical facility in Arizona. He’s been working long hours without a paycheck since the government shutdown began Dec. 22.

Anpetu Luka Hoksila, who is going by his given Native name so he doesn’t get in trouble at work, told HuffPost that he’s prepared to quit his job and work as a barista at a coffee shop if the shutdown continues.

“On some level, it’s kind of pitiful. But I don’t care,” he said.

IHS health care providers nationwide missed their first paycheck earlier this month but must keep working because of their “excepted” status as being essential workers. The agency provides health care to almost 2 million Native Americans and Alaska Natives. The longer the shutdown continues, the more difficult it will be for small tribes in rural areas to get essential medical services. 

Jackie Ramirez

Jackie Ramirez is an instructor for the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, also known as “Coast Guard City.” The Coast Guard is the only branch of the military that must work during the partial government shutdown because it’s under the Department of Homeland Security instead of the Department of Defense.

Ramirez said she’s been making ends meet with help from a pop-up food pantry meant to assist Coast Guard members during the shutdown.

“This is a new experience for me,” Ramirez told HuffPost of the food pantry. “It gives me that comfort in case that next paycheck doesn’t come. … Thank goodness for all this. I walked in and almost started crying.”

About 42,000 Coast Guard members recently missed paychecks for the first time since the monthlong shutdown began.

HuffPost readers: Are you affected by the government shutdown? Email us about it. If you’re willing to be interviewed, please provide a phone number.

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