US shutdown now longest in history, struggling employees sell household items

Hours after the partial shutdown of the US federal government entered the 22nd day Saturday, becoming the longest in the country’s history, accounts of distressed employees dipping into savings, selling household goods on Facebook and Craiglist are being reported from around the country.

One federal employee in Washington DC put his 2012 Dodge Avenger car up for sale on Craiglist. saying, “Need to pay upcoming bills due to furlough shutdown.”

An employee in Virginia is selling a TV. “It works perfectly and is in good condition. Reduced to $400, I am part of the government shutdown and need funds to survive.”

An estimated 800,000 federal employees are either one leave without pay or are working without pay and include those working at the department of state — that would include employees here and diplomat abroad, including ambassadors — treasury, homeland security, judiciary (include FBI personnel), interior and transportation (air traffic controllers and security). They missed their first paycheck of the shutdown period on Friday.

Talks to resolve the shutdown have been stalemated since President Donald Trump ended the last round with a “bye-bye”.

“Democrats should come back to Washington and work to end the Shutdown, while at the same time ending the horrible humanitarian crisis at our Southern Border I am in the White House waiting for you!,” he wrote on Twitter Saturday.

Lawmakers have left for the weekend and talks were not expected to resume, if they will at all, only next week. But Democrats are getting ready, at the same time, a move teased by the president several times that he could declare a national emergency and fund the wall from unspent defence money.

Trump has sought $5.7 billion to build a wall along the southern border — which he is now calling a “steel barrier” or anything else Democrats are willing call it — that was a key campaign promise, which, critics have pointed out, he had vowed to force Mexico t pay for it. He is not budging, either way.

Democrats won’t give him that amount, but they are willing to continue the negotiations but only if he allowed the reopening of the government which on Saturday beat the previous record of 21 days of continued shutdown from 1995, during the first term of President Bill Clinton, who had clashed with the Republican congress which wanted to cut federal funding for Medicare (health insurance for those older than 65) and Medicaid (for low-income Americans).

President Trump called on Democrats to resume talks and end the impasse, but showing no sign, however, of yielding ground on his wall.

Accounts of distress are being reported from around the country as impacted federal employees dip into savings, sell household goods and belonging pay bills, or take on multiple low-paying jobs to tide over the crisis.

“Not sure how long this will last now,” said an impacted federal employee, as essential staff is working without pay. The family is dipping into savings — “being of Indian descent, we have some savings otherwise it would be difficult”. The person did not want to be identified.

Jay Elhard, an employee of the National Park Service, has started a Facebook group for people like him selling household goods and items to pay bills and provide for other expenses. “You have to take a kind of cold-hearted look at things around you and decide what would be marketable to someone else,” he told The Washington Post.

First Published: Jan 12, 2019 22:31 IST

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