Government Shutdown Affects Millions, Including Chamblee Community

Ellie Furr and Matthew Welsh

Our country’s government made history this month — by not accomplishing anything.

Beginning on December 22, 2018, the United States government went into a partial shutdown over a financial disagreement on President Donald Trump’s plan to increase border security. More than 800,000 government employees were working without pay for 35 days, until the shutdown finally ended on January 25, 2019. Many workers were furloughed, while others, like Internal Revenue Service employees, were called back to work on the condition that they would receive back pay.

The shutdown had effects on people all over the country, including those in the Chamblee Charter High School community. Senior Jordan Bibb felt these effects firsthand. Her mom works for the IRS and was without work throughout the duration of the shutdown.

“Basically, she is almost like a manager; she does a lot of work that a manager would do,” said Bibb. “She is not involved with the group that was called back into work.”

Because Bibb’s mom wasn’t working, her family was more conscientious about their financial decisions during this time.

“We are alright, but we are just making sure we don’t overspend or anything like that,” said Bibb. “We haven’t done much, but we have changed what we eat. We buy a lot less expensive stuff.”

Although the government provided assurance of back pay, Bibb’s mom and many other government workers were still concerned with the stability of their income.

“[My mom] is also building up a lot of anxiety,” said Bibb. “She keeps watching the news everyday, to see if the government will reopen, so there is pretty much a whole lot of waiting.”

Despite the uncertainty, the shutdown provided Chamblee families with some unforeseen benefits.

“It has actually kind of been easier because [my dad] has been home and we’ve been able to do a lot more, like I’ve been able to go on college trips and he’s been able to take me,” said junior Frannie Adams, whose dad works at the Securities and Exchange Commission as a Securities Compliance Examiner.

For Adams and her family, the symptoms of the shutdown were less severe.

“He [my dad] has just been staying at home and going on trips,” said Adams.

Even Bibb’s mom also had more time to relax.

“She is getting a lot more rest than she used to,” said Bibb.

The shutdown affected more than just government employees, however. Government programs that rely on federal funding also lost the ability to function properly. One such program that is extremely important to 42 million Americans is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.

“Lack of a budget means that they’re running out of money for things like food stamps or SNAP benefits and some other services,” said Stephanie Suggs, Program Director at NETworks Cooperative Ministry, a food pantry in Tucker, Georgia.

In order to help those families who struggle to put food on the table, NETworks and other food pantries across the nation have made it easier for families to receive help from the pantries.

“We decided to lift the limitations on our pantry,” said Suggs. “Typically, a family could come in to get enough food for 2-3 days for their family twice a month. We’re just going to lift that twice a month limitation completely so people will be able to come in as many times as they want to during the month of February to get food.”

Because the government was worried that it might run out of funds for this program and others, many states reallocated SNAP benefits for February to January’s benefits. However, this means that families may endure a longer gap between benefit issuances.

“Right now people have both January and February SNAP benefits, but I think in February we will get really busy because people will have already spent their February benefits,” said Suggs.

Although the shutdown has ended, people who rely on SNAP benefits will still be feeling its effects months after January 25.  

“I think a lot of the impact is still coming,” said Suggs.

In addition, the debate over border security is still raging. Trump has claimed that if he does not receive funding to build a wall within three weeks, he will declare a national emergency.

“We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier,” said Trump. “If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shutdown on February 15 again, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and the Constitution of the United States to address this emergency.”