Metro

Short term loans. Layoffs. Trimming food budget. Across US, federal workers share their shutdown stories

Emma James, right, and co-worker Vincent Cuenca demonstrated outside the Federal Center in St. Louis. James is a processor in the multifamily housing division while Cuenta processes payments to FEMA contractors.
Christian Gooden/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/Associated Press
Emma James (right), and co-worker Vincent Cuenca demonstrated outside the Federal Center in St. Louis. James is a processor in the multifamily housing division while Cuenta processes payments to FEMA contractors.

Local federal employees affected by the government shutdown will hold a rally Friday in Boston to protest the ongoing work stoppage that shows no signs of letting up.

The rally is slated for 11:45 a.m. at George Thorndike Angel Memorial Square, across from the Environmental Protection Agency offices in Post Office Square, according to the American Federation of Government Employees Local 3428.

The union says on its website that it ““represents over 400 hardworking EPA employees in the Region 1 offices in Boston and Chelmsford, Massachusetts.”

Advertisement

Undine Kipka, an EPA environmental engineer who serves as the union’s second vice president, said Monday that the shutdown has been difficult for her and her colleagues.

Get Metro Headlines in your inbox:
The 10 top local news stories from metro Boston and around New England delivered daily.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

She acknowledged that people at times “complain about government being unresponsive” but said “the reality is that I would really like to do something but I can’t, because I’m not allowed to work.”

Kipka said her last paycheck came on time, but the next one might be late if the shutdown continues much longer. She and her husband would still be able to count on his income under that scenario.

“I do fear for anyone who is worried about making payments or otherwise needs a regular paycheck to come in,” said Kipka, 34, of Hanson.

J. David Cox Sr., president of the national AFGE union, said Monday in a statement that federal employees are looking to get back on the job.

Advertisement

“They believe in their mission and want to provide quality services to the American people,” Cox said. “Thanks to this shutdown, 420,000 federal employees are still required to report to work but aren’t receiving any pay. More than 380,000 employees are locked out of work. These are real people, with real lives and real responsibilities. It’s time to end this shutdown, open the government, and get federal employees back on the job—with pay.”

Other affected workers are venting their frustrations on social media; one popular hashtag that has recently emerged is #ShutdownStories.

James Ecker, a computer scientist at NASA, used the hashtag in a strongly worded tweet Friday.

“I am not on strike,” tweeted Ecker. “I was furloughed against my will. I am against spending taxpayer money on a wall. I am not on strike demanding a wall. I would very much like to go back to work #notonstrike #ShutdownStories.”

Ecker was referring to President Trump’s demand that Congress provide funding for his border wall — or in the alternative, a steel barrier — with Mexico in order to end the stalemate.

Advertisement

The words of Ecker were echoed by another federal employee, Sarah Tralins, a Tufts University graduate who works as a manager for global programs at the US Trade and Development Agency.

“I am not furloughed — yet,” Tralins tweeted Monday morning. “I love serving my country but I live paycheck to paycheck. I do not believe in holding federal employees hostage for political gain or the wall. This is awful. Mr. President, please stop the #shutdown.”

Relatives of furloughed workers also are voicing concern.

Tyler Plum, a graduate student at the Guy Harvey Research Institute at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, tweeted Sunday night that the shutdown has hit his parents particularly hard.

“I‘m watching my parents (who are both feds and furloughed) cut back on groceries and try to save money before my brother starts college this Fall,” Plum wrote. “I’m listening to my fed scientist friends talk about getting short term loans to cover bills. Enough is enough #ShutdownStories.”

Government contractors also have been dealt a blow, including Sunny Blaylock, a senior instructional designer at the Ventura Group Inc., a Virginia company that provides IT and cyber security services to the feds.

“Just got a notice that I am now laid off by my small government contracting company, no back pay,” Blaylock tweeted on Sunday. “I create e-learning and apps for diplomats. I loved my job. My diplomat husband is essential with no pay, we have a mortgage and a kid with braces. Please end this. #ShutdownStories.”

Julie McCollum, a Texas-based biological science lab technician with the US Department of Agriculture, said vital work has been stalled as a result of the impasse in Washington.

“I’m a tech with the USDA,” McCollum tweeted Dec. 30. “We’re not allowed in our gov’t greenhouses to water our plants. 3 months of growth lost; we don’t have enough time to replant and get them to seed by planting time in March. It will lose us a year in the long run. #ShutdownStories.”

Others using the hashtag haven’t been hit in the pocketbook but have lamented the lag in government services amid the shutdown.

Amy Chamarty, an official at the California Public Utilities Commission, rang in 2019 with a New Year’s Day tweet of a photo of overflowing trash at Point Reyes National Seashore in Inverness, Calif.

“Trash overflowing at Point Reyes National Seashore,” Chamarty wrote. “Happy New Year America! #shutdownstories.”

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. David Abel of the Globe Staff contributed. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.