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How the government shutdown is affecting Americans

What a government shutdown could mean for you

What we covered here

  • We asked for your shutdown stories. Here’s what you told us. (CNN hasn’t been able to independently verify all of these accounts. The responses have been lightly edited for clarity. Update: Some accounts have been updated to clarify information or to remove incorrect information after CNN interviewed respondents.)
  • We’re more than two weeks into the shutdown. On Sunday, President Trump said he might declare a national emergency to secure funds for a border wall. The wall has been at the center of the shutdown dispute.
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Partial government shutdown starts in

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Her husband is going to adopt her daughter, but they can't afford to have it finalized yet

Courtney Thoms writes that she and her husband both work with a federal contractor for NASA, and they are both going without pay. She says before the shutdown began, they started proceedings for her husband to adopt her daughter.

“Now that we aren’t getting paid, we can’t afford the Guardian Ad Litem the court is requesting to finalize her adoption on the 15th of this month,” Thoms says.

Thoms says they are worried about how they will afford their mortgage because they traveled over the holidays to see family.

“We weren’t expecting this, or we would have saved our money,” she says.  

She is facing homelessness

Cynthia Letts writes:

They have little to no food in their home

Ravyn Senter writes:

Staffing for the agency overseeing the federal food stamps program has been cut by 95% because of the ongoing government shutdown.

He can't finish his job application

Morgan Saul writes:

She just applied for unemployment

Jennifer P. says she and her husband are both federal workers. She just paid off her student loans, but that’s left her with very little savings.

Because of the shutdown, Jennifer says she and her husband have been trying to cut costs any way they can. She says they’ve been staying mostly at home, mining cupboards and forgoing outings with friend to cover the bills.

“We live in a very expensive valley, so it’s not the best location to be unemployed in, and it’s hard to get temporary work here since we don’t know how long we will be furloughed for.

He's worried about the contractors who might not get paid when the shutdown is over

Trevor Bousu is an Air Traffic Control supervisor who works at Denver Air Route Traffic Control Center. He says he has “been proud of the work my controllers have done day in and day out without knowing when we will be paid next.”

Bousu says there is an “older Hispanic woman who diligently does her job of emptying garbages, vacuuming the facility and making our workplace clean.”

He’s concerned that the woman is unaware that she may not receive pay when the shutdown is over.

“Now I pray that is not the case, but she is just an example of hardworking people getting hurt the most.

They're worried they may lose their daycare spots

Rosalind Brooks says she is a single mother of two children who are still in daycare.

She writes:

“With the government still shutdown, no income in sight, and savings running low, I may be forced to withdraw my children from daycare.”

“If I have to, they will possibly lose their spot and I won’t have any care for them in the event we are forced to return to work without pay.”

Michelle V says her husband is a furloughed employee of the US Forest Service. Being without his paycheck is causing childcare worries for her family too.

Theoretically my husband could watch our girls, but then we would lose our spot and be in a heap of trouble when the shutdown ends,” she says.

The shutdown is holding up life-saving treatments

Sarah Doerr says her 6-year-old son has a rare, neurodegenerative disease called PKAN. She says the clinical trial for a potentially life-saving treatment is in the final stages of FDA review and approval, and that she was hoping the trial would start in early 2019.

“Now that much of the FDA is shuttered, we don’t know when the approval process will be back on track. A month or two delay could be a matter of life or death to kids with this disease,” she says.

Tony says he runs a drug company with a drug licensed from the National Institutes of Health.

We can’t move forward with one of our life-saving cancer treatments because we can’t sign an updated license agreement since the government is shut down,” he says.

She says her husband should be 'essential' enough to get paid

Kimberlee Roberts, a stay-at-home mother of three children, says her husband works for Customs and Border Protection. She says he has to show up for work without getting paid, and “has been forced on overtime shifts because of short staffing.”

We are just normal people who make enough to live. Missing paychecks, however, would be catastrophic to our family. We don’t appreciate being used as pawns in a political game. It may not affect Congress to keep the government closed, but it definitely affects the regular family just trying to pay our bills,” Roberts writes.

Some are considering other jobs

Steven Potter says he’s been a federal employee for three years. This is his second time being furloughed. He writes:

“I was lucky enough to have been able to pay my rent this month, but with other bills beginning to stack up, I’m in the middle of deciding whether to file for unemployment or become a Lyft driver just to stay afloat …” 

Gloria writes:

“I am required to work with no pay. How long do they think people can do this? I will get another job and walk away from this because I have no other choice.”

Meanwhile, Steve writes that as a federal law enforcement officer, he still must work without pay.

“For non-essential employers [SIC], they do not have to go to work so they can get other temporary employment. We, on the other hand, have to continue to go to work, and therefore have no time to seek other employment so we can stay on top of our bills.”

Steve says he has had to call his creditors to have bills postponed, and has also asked his landlord to postpone his rent payment.

“The unknown has been the hardest for me and several other employees, not knowing when we will be getting paid next.”

The shutdown may impact this woman catching up on her mortgage

“Every single year I have to skip my Wells Fargo mortgage payment of $560 on our modest $69,000 home, just to afford Christmas for our 3 sons,” Brandi Taylor writes.

Taylor says her husband, a former USN Airman, has one lung and “has been out of work since diagnosis.” She says they can’t simply find an extra $600.

IRS worker of 28 years says she may have to figure out what she's going to do

Lorie McCann is a furloughed federal worker. On January 1, she paid her bills for the month and realized that the money was from her last paycheck.

“It is very stressful,” she says.

McCann has been an IRS worker for 28 years. She tells CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield that if the shutdown goes on much longer, she’ll have to make some tough decisions. That could include filing for unemployment, or looking for a second job.

“I am going to have to figure out what I’m going to do to sustain my lifestyle,” McCann says. “And just to be able to eat, honestly.”

Watch the moment:

He needs his tax refund for surgery

James Laurick says he needs surgery. He says he was planning on using his tax refund to pay his insurance co-payment.

Because the IRS is among the federal agencies affected by the shutdown, tax refunds maybe be delayed this year.

Laurick says he will likely have to wait “in pain every day” for his tax refund.

The shutdown is taking a toll on prison workers

Some employees at federal prisons are considered “essential,” and required to work without pay through the shutdown.

Here are some stories from prison workers and their family members.

Samantha writes:

“My ex-husband is a federal officer at a prison. I am a third year teacher. I heavily rely on my ex’s income to support our 4-year-old daughter, as I am primary caretaker. I cannot receive child support for the month of January because he is not getting paid.”

Nik writes:

“My husband works for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. I am in school full time, as is our son. Not getting even one paycheck will affect our wellbeing. Not knowing when he will be paid again is a stress on our family. I am not sure if we can afford my tuition as well as my son’s. I may have to put my education on hold just so my son can go.”

Sean writes:

“I am a DOJ Bureau of Prisons employee who has been working without compensation since the shutdown began. My family of four relies solely on my federal income to provide shelter, food, transportation, and utilities, along with other expenses families face. Each day which passes during this shutdown ultimately contributes to the increasing risk of staff and inmate safety at each institution in the Bureau of Prisons.”

Lindsey writes:

“My husband works as a correctional officer at a federal prison. He’s been forced to work without pay, and unable to miss any work. If he doesn’t get his check this Friday as he’s supposed to, I don’t know how we will cover expenses. Both of our sons birthdays are this month. How do I explain this to them??”

Home buyers and sellers feel uncertain amid the shutdown

Katie Venable says she is a high school special education math teacher and first-time home buyer. Venable says she is planning to use a USDA loan but can’t have the loan completed because of the shutdown.

“Due to extended length, seller has an option to eventually change their mind if the shutdown exceeds the anticipated closing date.”

Lauren Dutrow writes that the buyer of her home has a USDA Direct Loan and cannot get funds released to purchase it because the agent coordinating their loan is on furlough due to the shutdown. Dutrow says she has to sell her home to purchase her new one, and says she may lose out if they keep having to extend the settlement.

“And to top it off,” Dutrow continues, “Even if they are willing to extend settlement again, it will cost us even more because we will have to pay to extend our locked interest rate on our conventional loan with our lender if we don’t settle by the 9th. This affects more than just people getting time off.”

Jenny Wilcox says she is a young parent with a foster child who was getting ready to close on her first mortgage in December using USDA.

“Now we are stuck with no home and waiting in limbo.”

The shutdown could affect tribal nations

Dante B. Halleck says he works at a federal hospital that serves a tribal nation. If the shutdown continues for months, Halleck says that employees might leave.

“There are very few people who can live without a paycheck for months, let alone a year. I am already looking to backup plans in the private sector. I have to – my wife and I just had a new baby,” he says.

Halleck says the shutdown could be detrimental to Native American communities.

According to Kaiser Health News, the shutdown has put some health services for Native Americans on hold.

The Indian Health Service will continue to provide services that “meet the immediate needs of patients, medical staff and medical facilities” during the shutdown, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

But other programs for tribal nations are taking a hit.

IHS won’t be funding grants to tribal health programs and health clinics run by the Office of Urban Indian Health Program.

They thought their troubles were over. Then the shutdown hit.

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 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.”

Read the full story here.

Nanny calls out the shutdown's 'trickle-down effect'

Tyra Simpkins says she is a nanny who receives Social Security benefits. She cares for a boy whose mother is a federal employee. Since his mother is not working, the boy stays home, and Simpkins does not work.

Simpkins says she’s already lost $800 in 14 days, “with no end in sight.”

His bills and 'unexpected expenses' are surpassing his savings

Cody Russell writes:

'Are you going to work today?' her daughter asks daily

Jennifer Kittleson says she works for USDA-FSA as a program technician in North Dakota. She says she is a single parent who gets minimal child support for her two children. Living paycheck to paycheck, Kittleson says she is worried about when her next one will arrive. She says all of her bills are paid until mid-January, when the second half of the monthly bills come in.

One couple is trying to make the most of the situation

Marcia Rose-Ritchie says she and her husband work for the Forest Service, so neither of them will be getting a paycheck next week. Fortunately, she says they have been able to maintain a decent emergency fund for situations like this.

They’re trying to make the most of the time they’re spending not at work. But in the meantime, they’re having to cut costs.

“We’re trying to make the best of our time by cleaning closets and cupboards, doing neglected home maintenance, and going on hikes on good days. We’re doing our best not to be stressed about what we know will be waiting for us when we get back which will be a lot of clean up and catch up.”

Rose-Ritchie says she and her husband are both retiring next year. They both had plans for their last months and “losing any of it is distressing.”

Being furloughed is a weird limbo space to live in, but at least as a nonessential employee I am not in the unenviable situation of the essential employees who continue to work without pay. My heart goes out to them and I am so grateful for their professionalism and dedication. They all deserve our utmost respect and thanks,” Rose-Ritchie says.

A Lyft driver is seeing a drop in business

Jone Yohannes says he’s a Lyft driver in the DC area who relies heavily on federal employees for rides.

Yohannes says his girlfriend is a child care worker, and all the parents are federal employees. No work means she can’t pay rent, and Yohannes worries she’ll be evicted.

She didn't attend synagogue to save money

Susan Hirschy says she missed out on a trip to the synagogue over the shutdown. She lives in a rural area and says she needs to save gas and money.

Hirschy says she’s disabled and gets her income and food from government programs.

“This may be my last month with food assistance. Now, frugality in all it’s forms must take shape. I will not drive to save gas. I will sit in the dark to conserve power. Every dollar will go towards the coming loss in my food budget.”

She was supposed to retire in two weeks

Eileen Connor says both she and her husband worked for the federal government for more than 30 years. The new year was supposed to be an exciting time for the couple, she says. Connor had filed retirement papers months ago to retire on January 21. Her husband was supposed to begin teleworking the same week.

“Now, the uncertainty, the not knowing how or when my retirement will begin or when we will receive wages or pension, is keeping both of us up late at night.  How will we pay our mortgage and utility bills?”

She doesn't know if her Peace Corps application will go through

Lakeisha Gardner says she applied in November to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer in Botswana in July 2019. It’s an opportunity she says she’s been planning for months.

The Peace Corps website isn’t being maintained during the government shutdown, and now Gardner doesn’t know if they’re still reviewing new applicants.

More Coast Guard families are feeling the crunch

A US Coast Guard boat participates in the Homeland Security Task Force Southeast mass migration drill March 8, 2007 off the shore of Miami.

Since the Coast Guard falls under the Department of Homeland Security, it’s affected by the current government shutdown.

That’s causing frustration for several Coast Guard families.

Rosemary Cohen says her husband is in the Coast Guard, and the couple has two young children. They rely on two incomes to cover rising daycare costs, bills, food and other essentials. Now Cohen says she’s the only one working.

Cassandra Felt says her son has been serving in the Coast Guard for 3.5 years, and is working without pay right now.

Felt says she had dinner with her son during his duty recently. He told her he was able to pay his mortgage with the paycheck he received on the 1st, but he doesn’t know when the next paycheck will come.

More contractors say they won't get back pay

Contractors for federal agencies are especially affected during the shutdown. Because they aren’t salaried, they won’t receive back pay for the days they didn’t work (or worked without pay) once the government reopens.

Here’s what some of them have been going through.

From Mark Greer:

“As a contractor for the Department of Justice, I’ve had to use the remainder of my leave day balance. Starting next week, I’ll be working with leave without pay.”

From Willis Jones:

“I work as a government contractor that supports the FAA here in Washington, DC. This week? I worked 12 hours. Next week? 20 hours. The beginning of next week, I will help inform 30+ people that they cannot return to work and to exhaust their PTO (if they have any).”

From B. Williams:

“I’m a federal IT contractor. Everyone seems to forget about people like me and my co-workers – highly skilled middle-class professionals who, unlike the federal employees who direct our work, will not receive any back pay once the shutdown is over. This will inevitably result in skilled contractors fleeing federal contract employment.”

From Jerry Fisher:

I’m a federal IT contractor impacted by the shutdown. Federal employees are in a terrible bind, but they will get backpay. The rest of us are out of work, period. Those of us lucky enough to have vacation hours are using what we have, but other than that we are already behind on utilities, mortgage, car payments, and basic needs. That is money we’ll never get back.

Life-saving HIV research could be put on hold

Alice says she’s a PhD student working on NIH-funded, multimillion-dollar research. Her boss, the principal investigator, is unable to receive funding for second year of the grant.

He's worried unpaid bills could lead to a poor credit score, which could affect his job

Mark is affected by the shutdown as an employee with over 20 contractors who work for him. He writes that he has spent days working with creditors because of lack of funds to pay the bills this month.

Mark says he is looking to file unemployment and take a part time job for food and gas. He also says he plans to go to the food stamp office.

A teacher says his lesson plans are affected

Allen Bartell says he’s a fifth grade science teacher. He’s planning a unit on weather and climate that relies heavily on the NOAA website. Due to the shutdown, the site isn’t being updated, which means many of Bartell’s lessons won’t work.

The shutdown is causing a problem for this woman's 87-year-old mother

Donna Mitchell writes:

His son might not be able to complete his last semester

Tommy Nguyen says he is a federal employee who is working without pay.

He says the shutdown may prevent his son from completing his last semester.

She hopes people understand bartering doesn't work 'in place of rent'

Jessica writes:

My husband and I are both federal employees. We just moved into a new house. If we start missing our paychecks after 1/11, I don’t know what we’re going to do. Neither of us have been sleeping well at all so we’re both getting sick. We are afraid that we’re eventually going to get evicted and have no place to go. I don’t think people understand that we can’t just “barter” in place of rent. They’re obviously not living in the same world as we do, or they would understand how completely unnecessary this is. We took these jobs to serve our country, not a political party and certainly not to be used as pawns in this shutdown.” 

He's worried about how his kids will be cared for

Jonathan Fisher works for the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Oklahoma. He’s the head of a single-income family living paycheck to paycheck. His wife is finishing up a degree in speech language pathology, and his three kids are six and under.

If the shutdown lasts beyond January, Fisher says, he’ll need to move with his kids to Louisiana so that family members can care for them while he works and his wife finishes school.

A widow hasn't been able to claim death benefits

Peggy McChesney said her husband of 40 years was a retired fire management officer with the USDA. He died on New Year’s Eve.

Now that the USDA and the Office of Personnel Management are closed due to the shutdown, she says she hasn’t been able to claim death benefits.

McChesney says she lives paycheck to paycheck because her husband had five surgeries in two years.

A lot of people are having issues buying or selling their homes

Sandra Quinones was supposed to close on a new home by December 28. Now she’s sitting among boxes.

She had been granted a loan from the US Department of Agriculture, but the USDA has been closed ever since the government shut down. Without that loan, her builders won’t get paid.

USDA loans are proving to be a big impact from the shutdown. The USDA provides zero-down-payment mortgages for low-income homebuyers in rural and suburban areas. The loans have low interest rates and fees, and are a good option for people who can’t get a traditional mortgage.

There are many more stories like Sandra Quinones. Here are some of them.

“My girlfriend and I, along with our 16-month-old daughter, were in the process of buying our first house. The loan we were getting was the USDA Rural Development loan. We had everything ready to go, and were just about to submit everything to the USDA for approval when the government shut down. We were set to close on January 17, and it’s very possible we’ll lose this house because of this shutdown,” says Cody Chambers. 

“I am a first time home buyer and I was supposed to close on my house on December 28th. Because of this partial shutdown, I wasn’t able to close because I was getting a USDA loan. We just had to place our second extension on our closing date. Thankfully, my landlord is understanding and my family and I aren’t out of a home but I know that isn’t the case with others in the same position as I am,” Kiesha says. 

“I was suppose to close on my house today but because I have a USDA rural development loan the loan can’t be funded until the government opens back up. My daughter was looking forward to us finally having our own house now we don’t know what’s going to happen,” Donielle says.

We are a young couple with a one-year-old daughter and have been working hard to save up for this home. We have not been able to close on the purchase because the loan we have lined up is a USDA loan. Because of the highly irresponsible handling of this situation, we are left essentially homeless, as we broke the lease on our previous residence and traveled across the country in order to move into our new home,” Grant Johnson says.

“We are under contract to sell our house with a woman who has/had a USDA loan. We were scheduled to close on the 31st and, of course, cannot close on the house we want to buy. We have two kids and half of our things in storage, and at this point, are completely uncertain about what will happen or when,” Claudia Rayno says.