Don’t shut the government down

Students whose family members were furloughed during the sixteen-day government shutdown this month worried about how they would manage financially, since many Fairfax County families are employed by the government and are dependent on the income they receive.

The government shutdown caused a little more than 3.3 million workers across the country to have their pay, positions, or both suspended from between Oct. 1 and 17. As such, a large amount of people was indefinitely without income. Many students were directly affected, as most have parents, older siblings, or other family members who were furloughed due to the government shutdown, causing them to face financial hardship and stress as the shutdown dragged on.

“My Dad got furloughed and it’s been rather stressful, particularly on my father,” senior Rachel Otto said. “I can tell this has bothered him quite a lot and it’s unfortunate to see. It’s frustrating to see the government neglect its citizens the way it has.”

Although some employees still worked hard at their jobs without pay during the shutdown, many others stayed at home due to the lack of funds for certain government departments.

“My step-dad works for the Department of Transportation and he’s been staying at home. It’s making the cost of living a little more difficult for us,” sophomore Lizzy Butler said. “My mom also works for the Department of Transportation as a contractor, but her contract isn’t up yet. I really don’t want my step dad and mom to both be out of work, because that will make everything a lot more difficult than it already is.”

The furloughs were caused by a lack of a budget for the government, as Congress’s fiscal year runs from October 1 to September 30 the next year—this is why they had to pass a spending bill by Oct. 1. This spending bill helps determine how the government will produce a budget to determine what to do with federal funds for the rest of the fiscal year and what will happen with the US debt. Republicans and Democrats alike couldn’t agree what was to be on the bill, and the government shut down. Some students picked up the slack for their families by getting a job or giving part (if not all) of their paycheck.

“My mom is a stay at home mom with my 18 month old little sister, so she isn’t getting paid,” senior Lexi Knoepfler. “My step-dad was our only way of having any money coming in, he’s contracted with the Navy, and they told him he was laid off until the shutdown ended. For the past 16 days, no money was coming into our bank accounts so we had to live off of all the food that was in the house, all the deodorant, basically everything. They even started talking about how maybe I should drop out of school so that I could help and get a job.”

Students also expressed political irritation as both parties argued relentlessly with little to show for it.

“The government shutdown put my mom out of work. She shares her hours with her deputy every other week and I have to help her with our expenses,” senior Chris Learn said. “I believe the government is being stupid because they’re putting good, hard-working people out of a job and wrecking homes because they can’t decide on anything.”

Exasperated students expressed much frustration about the political turmoil occurring at Capitol Hill, regardless of party affiliation.

“The government shutdown has affected my family in a big way. My family basically lives paycheck to paycheck and without my mom working, we are living on borrowed time,” senior Paige Hastie said. “I think that the government is behaving like children. They are bickering over technicalities at the expense of the American public. Our families are being put in jeopardy so that each side can prove a point to the other that they will never agree with.”

October 17, Congress voted to reopen federal departments and agencies, bring back all the thousands of furloughed workers, and raise the $16.7 trillion debt limit. However, this is a temporary patch—enforcement of this new debt limit is on hold until February 7th, which sets up another possible crisis over the national debt around March.