Federal Workers Still in Limbo as Shutdown Drags On

Oct 15, 2013

Federal worker Justine Kelly with her toddler.
Federal worker Justine Kelly with her toddler.
Credit WYSO/Lewis Wallace

As the federal government shutdown drags into its third week, it has become a sort of background noise, present but not always noticeable. Unless you’re a federal worker, that is; Justine Kelly’s a case in point.

She works at the Social Security Administration, and has been working without pay for weeks.

“This is just so demoralizing,” she said at a Democratic party event in Dayton Monday. “I feel like nobody cares. I feel nobody’s listening, like this is all a game.”

Kelly’s husband is a civilian worker at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and he’s had ten furlough days this year. They just closed on a house in downtown Dayton, and now they’re paying bills with their credit cards and reducing their retirement payments.

Kelly says she thinks the people who depend on the Social Security office lose out, too.

“I feel like most politicians have never even met somebody who gets by on a thousand dollars a month of Social Security,” she said. “Those people are just a talking point to them. They don’t know, they don’t know what people go through. I don’t even wanna say that I feel like I’m watching toddlers, cause I have a toddler, and he’s way more fun than Congress.”

Although there were stirrings of progress in Congress over the weekend, Democrats continue to push their advantage in negotiations with House Republicans, who initially refused to keep the government open without concessions on the Affordable Care Act.

A new deal, designed to avert the looming federal debt default Oct. 17, could include compromises over budget cuts. But an end to the partial government shutdown that started Oct. 1 is still not actively on the table, and in large part, the game of chicken continues with neither side suggesting they will step aside.