I never gave much thought to Government shut downs or furloughs until I moved to Indiana. It was never something that affected me or anyone I knew until I married a man who worked for the Government and until I eventually got a Government job myself. Call it blissful ignorance or a lack of concern, but it never felt like anything but a scare tactic to get people working harder to find solutions. I always figured that we could get ourselves together in time so that nothing would be shut down and no one would be temporarily without work and without their paycheck.
This year, my husband and many other Government employees were forced to lose one work day per week until the furlough was thankfully cut short and employees were allowed to return to their 40 hour work weeks. It seemed to be the easiest solution to cut salaries rather than cut other areas that wouldn’t force anyone to fall behind on their bills or enter into debt. In an effort to cut spending, my office eliminated overtime, reduced travel, and cancelled a very large training event that would have cost quite a pretty penny. But even with those cuts, we were not allowed to be exempt from the furlough and had our group of civilians out for one day each week. It hurt some people more than others; thankfully my husband and I made due and didn’t feel too big of a hit.
With the toddler-like behavior of our Government, we are now in a shut down and my office is again under furlough. This time though, they are out of work effective noon yesterday and do not know when they will be able to return; it could be an entire month until they are back in the office. I don’t have to explain what a crushing blow it would be if these people were forced to go an entire month without a paycheck. I also don’t have to explain what it will do to our office to have this reduced staffing for an entire month. Already, my work load has increased, not only because of the people in my office that are out, but because of the people in every state and territory that we work to serve. It’s barely been a day and things are already falling behind.
We are currently residing in quite the hole financially. Hopefully no one is waiting for a passport because that office is shut down. Too bad about your vacation because you’re not getting into those parks or museums. My apologies to any states waiting for mail from my office because our building’s mail service has cut their number of runs. I even heard on the radio this morning that clinical trials for children with cancer are now shut down as well, forcing an average of 35 children a day to go without this treatment. The LA Times reported that “about 800,000 federal employees have been sent home. Analysts say the shutdown means a reduction in collective American income of about $200 million per day. Communities near national parks are expected to lose $76 million a day in visitor spending. In Yosemite National Park, lodges and cabins had been scheduled to be filled to near capacity. Instead, thousands of visitors were given 48 hours to leave.”
More seriously, they go on to say that “domestic violence shelters in Montana and Vermont were no longer being reimbursed for their services, and said some shelters could be forced to close altogether. Scientific research across the country came to a halt because scientists could not get into their own labs. Head Start, the health, nutrition and education program for low-income children, is operated locally, but is funded by federal grants — some of which ended Monday. Federal grants were no longer being renewed as of Tuesday morning. According to organizers, at least 23 local programs in 11 states are now without funding. In Calhoun County, Ala., where a quarter of the residents younger than 18 live below the poverty line, hundreds of poor children were told that their preschools were closed. About 70% of the 86,000 civilians employed at the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies have been furloughed.”
This shutdown is hurting people who can’t afford to be hurt, don’t deserve to have this burden, or are too young to even have a say it in at all. All the while, our so-called decision makers are sitting comfortably and continuing to earn their salaries while accomplishing absolutely nothing. It’s unfair, disgusting, and an embarrassment. When my office was instructed to cut funding in order to avoid a furlough, we did it in a timely matter and were able to cut enough to avoid it. But still we were furloughed once and have been furloughed again in the same year (although in different fiscal years, which is what matters to the Government).
It makes sense to cut overtime and travel, but it doesn’t make sense to cut work hours and close businesses. This is harmful to everyone and causes more problems than it solves. Cutting travel for one person for a useless business trip that could be handed via teleconference or otherwise would save enough money to keep another person in the office. But instead of doing things that slightly inconvenience some higher ups, they do things that greatly inconvenience the rest of us. Head Start, for example, is a great program that I’ve seen work is wonderful ways. Now those children are out of luck for who knows how long because a group of adults can’t quit bickering long enough to solve a problem that quite honestly, isn’t that hard to solve.
Right now, I have a stack of papers to my left. I will spend the day going through these papers and beginning the process of getting Service Members reimbursed for various expenses. Unfortunately, after I do my part, the process comes to a stand still because the civilians who have to do the next step in the process are not in the office today and I don’t know when they will return. It almost seems pointless for me to do this, but my stack of papers will only grow if I leave it because the other person who does what I do is also on furlough and I am picking up their slack. It’s not fair to the Service Members who are now having to wait on reimbursements, it’s not fair to the people who should be helping but are forced to stay home, and it’s not fair to me (although I rarely mind extra work, it’s the principle of the matter).
This furlough is doing so much more than keeping people out of work for a few days or weeks. It affects us all. Congress should be ashamed of themselves for forcing the Government into a shutdown; I know I’m ashamed of them and utterly perplexed by this total nonsense. I’m curious to hear what you think of this, what solutions you would propose, and any other thoughts you have on the matter.