With the possibility of another shutdown looming ahead, students and families affected by the furlough reflect on their experiences during the longest shutdown in history.
The government fell into a shutdown including a furlough December 22 over President Trump’s push to create his promised border wall between the U.S. and Mexican border and Congress’ noncompliance to funding it. The shutdown ended January 25 with President Trump signing a bill to reopen the government until tomorrow.
With many government employees in the area affected, junior Aaliyah Dickson, whose stepfather went without pay as an FDA employee, expressed that her family was facing challenges. “Our family was basically living on one check,” she says. “My mom had to sometimes work overtime to earn what my dad could make in one day.”
The shutdown has raised Dickson’s awareness of the impact that government processes have on everyday people. “Shutdowns transfer unnecessary pain [to families] and inflict [long-term] damage,” she adds. “It has made me realize how much I need to pay attention to the government.
From the parent perspective, one anonymous Blake mother who works for the FDA notes the stresses of being a furloughed employee. “Wanting to work, having a job, but being told you can’t work was difficult,” she says. “I worried about what the workload would look like when we returned and how quickly we would be able to catch-up.”
Senior Nathan Chung, whose mother works for the NIH and father works for a government contractor, was one of many who was surprised by the length of the shutdown. “I just thought that it would be something that would eventually pass,” he says.
However, as the days of the shutdown became weeks, and then over a month, concerns about how long the furlough would last came into question. Senior Gracie Guidy, a recipient of social security funds, says, “I think that once it got into week two or week three, [my family and I] were starting to pay attention more.”
Junior Ryan Keegan is also part of a family affected by the shutdown, but unlike Guidy, Keegan justifies the shutdown. “The shutdown doesn’t change my opinion,” he says. “[The wall] is worth a shutdown because . . . I don’t think it’s right for people to just jump over the border.”
To aid families struggling from the furlough, MCPS created the Dine with Dignity Program, giving students affected by the shutdown free breakfast and lunch. The county also held an employment open house for federal employees and promoted services held within the county like A Wider Circle and Women Who Care Ministries that provide basic needs.
Senior Kendi Aaron, whose mother works within the FDA, expresses appreciation about the resources for those experiencing a furlough. “Life didn’t just stop when the shutdown started,” she says, “so for our county to recognize that and to take action, I’m really proud to live here.”