Hundreds of Thousands of Americans Work Without Pay: What is Happening?


Photo credit Ashley Bucknum

Ashely Bucknum, Reporter

A federal law enforcement employee is living in her friend’s basement because her paychecks are next to nothing. A NASA contractor who once made a steady income is now struggling to put food on the table. A security administration supervisor is working eight-hour-days without earning a single dime. What is going on in our country?

On December 22, 2018, President Trump initiated what is now the longest government shutdown in our nation’s history.

Although this one made history, government shutdowns are not totally uncommon. They occur when Congress fails to appropriate funds. Typically, government shutdowns last anywhere from a couple days to a couple weeks. Unlike past shutdowns, this one has reached over a month.

On January 25, the thirty-fifth day of the shutdown, President Trump signed a bill reopening the government for three weeks. He declared, however, that if Republicans and Democrats cannot reach an agreement on border wall funds by February 15, he is prepared to either reinstitute the shutdown or declare a national emergency.

The partial shutdown prompted a wave of effects that spread through the nation. According to CNN, hundreds of thousands of federal workers were either temporarily laid off or ordered to work without pay. For federal families who practically live paycheck-to-paycheck, this was devastating news. “We should not be putting 800,000 people temporarily out of work for political reasons,” US History teacher Brian Zemojtel said.

Beyond the masses of unpaid employees, National Parks and federal agencies have encountered numerous effects of the shutdown as wellsome of which are becoming hazardous to the public.

Due to the absence of National Park Service workers, several national parks have become horribly dirty and dangerously unsupervised. According to the Washington Post, seven deaths have occurred in parks since the shutdown began.

The government shutdown has not disturbed the day-to-day operation of most schools. Each year, schools receive funding to finance the subsequent year’s expenses. Fortunately, schools have already received funds for this coming school year.

While it may not severely impact students in Lake Havasu, the government shutdown has indirectly affected all of America. Senior Tatum MitchellI has not personally felt the effects of the shutdown, but has family members in the coastguard who are not receiving paychecks right now.

As human beings, we are bound to disagree over political matters and economic issues. But as American citizens, we must remember that our values include trust and unity. We can only hope that our government can come to an agreement that will ultimately strengthen our nation.