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As Shutdown Drags On, Furloughed Workers Feeling The Financial Pinch

Neither political party seems closer to finding a means to end the government shutdown.
Victoria Pickering: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vpickering/4607909002/
Neither political party seems closer to finding a means to end the government shutdown.

As the federal government remains closed for a fourth day, some furloughed workers in the region are balancing unexpected time off with the anxiety of not knowing when they’ll return to work.

Nancy Proctor is the head of mobile strategy and initiatives for the Smithsonian Institution. As a federal worker, one of the 800,000 that have been sidelined by the shutdown, Proctor has peered over the edge of the precipice of furlough before.

“So when this all built up this time, I tended not to think it was going to happen. I thought it would come to the 11th hour, but as Monday wore on it became clear that it was really going to happen," she says.

Procter admits, as furloughed workers go, she’s not as bad off as some, considering her husband doesn’t work for the federal government. In spite of this, Proctor says she was surprised at the depth of her emotional reaction to this unwelcome time off.

“When you have a job working for one of these federal agencies that you’re certainly not doing for the money but you’re doing it because the work's important, you enjoy it, you enjoy the people you work with and it’s a really important part of who you are. When that gets cut off, it’s like losing a limb, and it’s very alienating," she says.

For Marcelo Del Canto, who, along with his wife, works for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the situation is more dire. Del Canto is a numbers guy and on the first day of the shutdown he pulled their son out of daycare indefinitely.

“It’s very difficult. It’s a very difficult situation. If it goes longer than a week I probably will be calling the mortgage company and say, ‘I’ll make my payment this month. I don’t what’s going to happen next month,'" he admits.

Procter tries to remain optimistic, though, knowing that there are many others who are now cut off from essential government services—which trumps her days off the job without pay.

“It hits at a deeper sense of identity then one’s employment, but rather one’s sense of national identity. Are we really a country, that for politics, egos, and ideology will stand by and watch so many vulnerable people suffer? I hate to believe that’s who we are," she says.

Some local Republicans—including Northern Virginia’s Frank Wolf, and Randy Forbes and Scott Rigell of Hampton Roads—seem to be hearing that message and are now calling on House leaders to end the government shutdown. Rigell says continuing to demand a delay to so-called Oabamcare won’t get his party what it wants.

“My conclusion is no, that doesn’t advance our conservative cause," he says.

Pushback from Republicans in the region isn’t enough though. House leaders continue to demand that Senate Leaders negotiate on the healthcare law, while Democrats refuse. With the gridlock persisting, federal workers are starting to brace for a lengthy shutdown.

This story came to us through the Public Insight Network. It's a way for people to share experiences with us and a way for us to ask for input on stories we're covering. You can learn more about the Public Insight Network—and share your own shutdown stories—here.

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