They’re experienced research engineers and park rangers still in college, attorneys who enforce environmental regulations and former soldiers who took civilian jobs with the military after coming home from war.
And all of them have one thing in common: They were sent home on unpaid furlough last week after a political standoff between the president and Congress forced a partial shutdown of the federal government. More than 800,000 federal workers were affected at first, though the Pentagon has since recalled most of its idled 350,000 employees.
What these sidelined government employees are doing with their spare time varies as widely as the jobs they perform. Some are tightening their budgets at home, watching what they spend on food and other necessities, fearing it could be weeks before they earn another paycheck. Others are having a tough time keeping their workplace projects shelved and agency emails unread.
While Congress and the White House work on a deal to ensure furloughed workers receive back pay once the shutdown ends, some expenses can’t be put off, whether it’s replacing a broken furnace for $6,500 or buying diapers for a baby due before the month ends.
Here are the stories of just a few of the government workers directly affected by the shutdown.
As the government shutdown began its second week, Donna Cebrat was focused on stretching each dollar of her savings under the assumption she might not be able to return to work for a month or longer.
“Instead of having a dinner, I’ll have a bowl of cereal. Maybe for dinner and lunch. Or maybe I’ll go down to McDonald’s for a hamburger off the dollar menu,” said Cebrat, 46, who works for the FBI at its office in Savannah, Ga. “Lots of budget cuts. Not that I was living extravagantly before.”
Cebrat makes her living processing requests for public access to FBI records made under the Freedom of Information Act. She lives alone in a middle-class suburb and estimates the money in her savings account could last her anywhere from two to six months.
She checks headlines for any news on negotiations between the president and Congress, but said she avoids reading full stories or watching shutdown reports on TV that would only bring her down further.
“I don’t need to see the name-calling,” Cebrat said. “I just need to see the headline.”
Otherwise Cebrat has spent her days sanding and repainting her bathroom walls – a new tub, toilet and vanity will have to wait until next year – and taking walks in her neighborhood. She’s avoided trips to the mall or the movies.
Photo Highlights: President Obama Chicago Farewell Speech
President Barack Obama makes his final farewell speech in his hometown of Chicago. Arriving at O'hare airport on Airforce One Tuesday, early evening was First Lady Michelle Obama, daughter Malia and Vice President Joe Biden along with wife, Jill Biden.
Making a final journey as the 44th President of the United States, expressways and local South Side streets were cleared as traffic stood at a complete when the 20-vehicle caravan made its way to Valois Restaurant in Hyde Park. There, President Obama conducted a one-on-one interview with NBC anchorman, Lester Holt before proceeding to give his farewell speech at McCormick Place.
Nearly 20,000 attendees packed the nearly standing-room only space in the East wing of the McCormick Place as VIP attendees sat upfront to hang onto the President's every word. There were various groups that traveled from far and near to be a part of history including celebrity sightings from Sharon Stone to Empire's Jussie Smollett--local and state dignitaries. Opening up the ceremony was a special performance by Hip hop/R&B singer, BJ the Chicago Kid showcasing belting out the national anthem is a smart blue suit.
Once President Obama hit the stage, the electric energy of emotions ran throughout the audience. At times, the crowd's applause was so loud that it impossible to hear him but there were moments that silence rippled throughout the venue--knowing this would be his last time addressing his hometown as Chief of Staff.
In his signature style of class, poise and honor--he addressed the various strides that he and his administration has made over the last eight years in protecting America's democracy. His emotions got the best of him when he addressed his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama and daughter Malia who sat in the front row along with Vice President Joe Biden, wife Jill and his mother-in-law--Marian Shields Robinson.
<p class="p1"><span class="s1">“Malia and Sasha, under the strangest of circumstances, you have become two amazing young women, smart and beautiful, but more importantly, kind and thoughtful and full of passion. You wore the burden of years in the spotlight so easily. Of all that I’ve done in my life, I’m most proud to be your dad.”</span></p>
<p class="p1">After the speech, the Obama family took time out to walk along the barricades, greeting and shaking hands with supporters and friends. The scene was definitely historic and we knew it was the end of an era of class that will not be duplicated in the White House for a very long time.</p>
<p class="p1"><a href="http://www.twitter.com/globalmixx">Follow Mary L. Datcher on Twitter</a></p>
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