This family thought their troubles were over. Then the government shutdown left them in limbo.
Updated 12:53 PM ET, Sun January 6, 2019
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Atlanta (CNN)Just before Christmas, Jessica Caraballo and her husband got the break they had long worked for.
In their three-year marriage, the 31-year-old and her husband, Shalique, have gotten job after job trying to support their children. She has driven for Uber, he embalmed bodies at an Atlanta funeral home, and she worked all night at a Walmart store.
It was just last month when things finally appeared to be falling into place. Caraballo, a Transportation Security Administration officer at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, was promoted to a full-time position and her husband got a new job selling cars.
Buying a home, getting a second car and even just enrolling their three children in extracurricular activities at school would now be more than just dreams, they said.
But their joy lasted only a few days.
The partial government shutdown that began December 22 left Caraballo and 420,000 other federal workers across the country forced to work without a paycheck. Two weeks have passed and dozens of families like the Caraballos have put their lives on hold.
"Rent is due, light bill, gas bill, my car bill is due the 26th," Caraballo said. "I already got my last paycheck and there's no paycheck to come."
"I don't know when we would be able to celebrate birthdays, when we would be able to get ahead," she added. "This is a pushback."
Calling in sick is her last option
Caraballo has been fighting a cold for about a week but said she can't afford to miss a day of work -- even if she is not sure when she will get paid.
Friday afternoon, hours before she had to report to work, the family drove 45 minutes from their rental home in Forest Park, near the airport, to her parents' home in Griffin. Caraballo's parents would take care of her three kids -- Danyelle, 10, Daellah, 7, and 5-year-old DaMara -- while she and her husband went to work.
"I know that I have a partner, but he cannot do everything by himself. It takes two people in a household to keep it afloat," she said, coughing at times outside her parents' home.
Caraballo has accumulated paid sick time for months but is not allowed to take it during the shutdown. Instead, employees are offered leave without pay, she said.
"I'm going to keep going to work until they issue me a paycheck," she said. "One thing I know is that I can't afford to not go to work and then have them let me go."
Her sense of duty keeps her motivated
When Caraballo gets out of bed at 3 a.m. and puts on her royal blue TSA shirt and black pants, the first thing that comes to mind, she said, are others: her family and the thousands of travelers she sees every day.
"Regardless of if you pay me or not, I'm doing my job because it's not about Trump. It's about the people who are flying on this airplane," she said.