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Effects Of Government Shutdown Ripple Across Country

DON GONYEA, HOST:

We wanted to get a sense of the broad effects of the federal government shutdown, so we've gathered tape from across the country.

JENNIFER WILSON: They said you can't get inside because of this situation. I was, like, no, what am I going to do?

GONYEA: That's Jennifer Wilson (ph), a fourth-grade teacher from Port St. Lucie, Fla. She drove all the way to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta this week only to find it closed.

WILSON: So when I got here, I wanted to cry.

GONYEA: But of course, it's not just tourists being affected by the shutdown. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers are in limbo, including Sharon Stiteler, a park ranger for the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. Like the other federal workers we talked to, she speaks for herself, not her employer.

SHARON STITELER: Whether or not I go back to work is someone else's decision.

GONYEA: She's been through four government shutdowns.

STITELER: Sometimes at 2:00 a.m., I might have a bit of a panic attack that, you know, I'm not a useful contributor to my household. And, my goodness, maybe I should not have bought, you know, the more expensive lettuce today. Who knows how much longer the shutdown's going to last?

ERNIE JOHNSON: You know, I'm not over here kicking it on the beach, drinking pina coladas.

GONYEA: That's Ernie Johnson. He's a geologist with the Bureau of Land Management. He says that for many workers who don't have a backup fund, the shutdown means stressing about bills and finding ways to make ends meet. He's considering moving out of his home and onto a friend's couch.

JOHNSON: I'm just looking at the reality that, you know, I may not be able to pay rent.

GONYEA: He's not alone. Julie Burr, an administrative assistant in the Department of Transportation, is a single mom. She's keeping busy at a second job she picked up to see her family through the shutdown.

JULIE BURR: That's only about 25 percent of my pay that I make at my federal job, so it's not going to pay all of my bills, obviously.

GONYEA: She's a contractor, so even if other federal workers are granted back pay after the shutdown, she is unlikely to see any of that money.

BURR: I guess the drastic thing would be to start taking back Christmas gifts or, you know, maybe selling things. I don't know. I hope it doesn't come to that.

GONYEA: That's a worst-case scenario. But since they don't know how long they'll be without work, federal workers like Ernie Johnson are planning for the worst.

JOHNSON: So, you know, I have my contingency plans. And, right now, everything is budgeted, you know, kind of through the end of the month. But now it's just a matter of a wait game.

(SOUNDBITE OF PALOV'S "LOKUMS AND MATCHES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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