The federal government shutdown is hitting home in North Texas. While Congressional Republicans met with President Obama on Thursday, furloughed federal workers took to the street in downtown Dallas.
They’re fed up with Congress, worried about family finances, and they want to get back to work.
Cheryl Scott has worked for the Environmental Protection Agency for 16 years. She oversees hazardous waste grants to states. On Thursday, she was outside her EPA office on Ross Avenue with a dozen other furloughed employees. She held a sign that said “Honk to end the Shutdown.” And people were honking.
“I think everybody’s fed up with it.” Scott said. “You know, it’s not just that we’re not getting paychecks, it’s hurting the whole economy. And people are panicked.”
Because of the sequester budget cuts earlier this year, EPA employees were furloughed – without pay – for a week last summer. And now, the shutdown – and Scott says there’s no end in sight. She’s worried.
“I can put doctors and foods on credit cards and pay the minimum. But, mortgage, utilities, car insurance -- that requires cash and by the end of the month, I don’t know how much is going to be there,” Scott said. “It’s scary.”
Scott says she’s three years from retirement. Her husband was lending support on the protest line. He’s a self-employed network administrator for small businesses. His income has not recovered from losses during the recession.
EPA scientist Clovis Steib says his family has cut out all frills, such as eating out. Earlier this week, he filed for unemployment, something he thought he would never do. He says it was a humbling experience.
“I have two small kids at home, both in diapers. This doesn’t make it any easier to provide for them,” Steib said with a sigh. “You know, it’s the big unknown of how long this is going to last, going into our savings. This isn’t helping anybody. The contractors, those guys have it worse than us.”
Steib says at least furloughed workers have the promise of getting back pay when it’s all over, which he hopes is soon.
How is the shutdown affecting Texas? KERA has been tracking developments since the shutdown started.