As I write this piece, knowing that it will likely be published days later, and also knowing how quickly our news cycle seems to change, I am hopeful that when anyone reads this, the government shutdown will be over. It’s been more than a month since federal workers all across the country received a paycheck.
One of the worst things about this shutdown is the ripple effect it’s having on people who have absolutely nothing to do with the shutdown itself. You could put nearly all Americans into that category, but the particular group I’m thinking of is the children of furloughed federal employees. The struggle is even more pronounced for parents who have court-ordered child support payments. With no paychecks coming in, there are no wages to garnish to produce those needed funds.
Just to clarify, child support is handled by each state. This means that people who do not work for the federal government are unaffected. But parents who are currently furloughed by the shutdown may not be able to make their regular child support payments. This puts strain on the other parent who relies on those payments each month. Not to mention the children who need that income source. A bill was passed promising these employees back pay, but they are still responsible for paying child support during the shutdown.
Even if we think their parents have done something “wrong” to not financially prepare for this nightmare scenario they now find themselves in, their children did not. They don’t deserve this. I’ve read stories of kids coming home, opening the fridge and not having food to eat. Absolutely no child deserves that, no matter what their parents’ have or haven’t done.
Rising costs and stagnant wages have meant that increasingly more people are living paycheck to paycheck. I hear many people saying things like, “Well, the workers should stop spreading themselves so thin.” Higher costs/lower wages coupled with student loan payments, medical bills, and the myriad of other expenses people incur just by living life can make it hard for people to get ahead. “They can just sell their things to make the payments.” If this shutdown continues, people will eventually run out of things to sell. “Why don’t they take out a loan?” Even if they have the collateral, how will they pay it back if the shutdown continues to drag on?
Keep in mind, for parents paying child support, they are essentially paying to support two households – their own and that of their children. We as a society are often very critical of people who don’t care financially for their kids and rightfully so. Now we’re not going to be sympathetic to those who are trying to fulfill their parental duties?
No matter what your political beliefs, no one wants to see people hurting, especially people who haven’t done anything wrong. Furloughed workers just want to go to work and provide for themselves and their loved ones, but they can’t. Some families might be able to navigate that, others probably not. There are kids in this country who are paying that price. That is not a reality I’m going to accept.
I would like to urge you reading this – whatever your beliefs are about shutdowns and border walls – to please reach out to your senators (find them here) and congresspeople (find them here). You can demand an end to the shutdown. (If the shutdown is over when you see this, this is still good to bookmark.) Our reps work for us – never forget that power. Kids are depending on us.